Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Politics

Cuba Bets Big on Its Own Vaccines as Covid Surges

The communist government is inoculating hundreds of thousands of people with two local drugs, which it could end up selling to other countries. 

A technician works at the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana on Jan. 20, 2021.
 

A technician works at the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana on Jan. 20, 2021.
 

Photographer: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

Cuba is taking a high-risk gamble that it can solve a worsening Covid-19 crisis on its own, with vaccines made by local labs. The communist nation is inoculating hundreds of thousands of people with the shots even as they’re still being tested. Unlike almost every other nation in the Americas, Cuba hasn’t reached out to third parties—such as the global Covax program—seeking vaccines being used elsewhere.

The Cuban strategy centers on Soberana 02 and Abdala, made by the Finlay Institute of Vaccines and the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center of Cuba (CIGB), respectively. Both drugs are in Phase III clinical trials, and more than 415,000 doses have been administered during the testing process, using a three-dose regimen. The government says that, based on preliminary results, it’s forging ahead with inoculating front-line workers and at-risk populations.