Cuba's top epidemiologist expects COVID-19 vaccine in 2021

HAVANA, Aug. 12th  (Reuters) – Cuba’s top epidemiologist Francisco Duran told a daily briefing on Wednesday he expected a COVID-19 vaccine to be available worldwide from early next year, skirting questions about Russia’s granting of regulatory approval to one such vaccine.

Russia said on Tuesday it had granted approval to the vaccine after less than two months of human testing although it had not yet completed final trials, a move that prompted expressions of caution as well as interest worldwide.

Only about 10% of clinical trials are successful.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, told Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina that Cuba could be one of the places it could choose to produce the vaccine from November onwards given its strong biopharmaceutical sector.

Duran did not comment on this possibility at Cuba’s daily coronavirus briefing, when asked about the Russian vaccine, talking instead more generally about the likelihood of any vaccine.

“I continue to think that a vaccine will be available to the world and us as part of it from 2021, during 2021, likely in the first months,” Duran said, noting a roundtable on state television would elaborate further on the topic.

“There are people who say that sometimes I’m a bit pessimistic, but it’s not that I am pessimistic, but you have to be realistic.”

Cuba, which prides itself on its biopharmaceutical sector developed despite obstacles posed by the U.S. trade embargo, is also researching a possible vaccine.

The head of Cuba’s state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, Eduardo Martínez Díaz, said on Monday scientists were advancing fast in their research.