by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cuba could deliver the first million doses of its Soberana 02 COVID-19 vaccine candidate by late April, the country's biopharmaceutical authorities said Thursday during a televised address.
"Cuban vaccines are going well," said Eduardo Martinez, president of BioCubaFarma, a state company gathering 21 research centers and 32 companies. "Cuba will be one of the first nations to immunize its entire population."
The island nation, home to 11 million inhabitants, is working on the development of four experimental coronavirus vaccines, namely Soberana 01, Soberana 02, Mambisa and Abdala.
Cuba, the only Latin American country developing COVID-19 vaccine candidates, expects to produce 100 million doses of its Soberana 02 this year.
Local vaccine candidates are developed by experts from Havana's Finlay Institute of Vaccines (IFV) and the city's Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).
Finlay's Soberana 01 and Soberana 02 have shown a high immune response against the virus during clinical studies, IFV Director General Vicente Verez said.
"Soberana 02 is due to begin the third phase of clinical trials in March, involving some 42,600 participants," he added.
In addition, Abdala has started the second phase of clinical trials as Mambisa continues assessing the immune response generated from the doses administered to volunteers.
Vaccine candidates developed by Cuban scientific institutions also assess immune response to new COVID-19 strains found in South Africa, Britain, Brazil and the United States.
"We are abiding by good practices in keeping with international regulations and standards," said CIGB Director General Marta Ayala.
First established in the 1980s, the Cuban biotech industry has exported vaccines to more than 40 countries, including shots against meningitis, hepatitis B and lung cancer.
Cuba's national vaccination program includes 11 vaccines against 13 diseases, eight of which are produced in the Caribbean nation.
Eduardo Ojito, director general at Cuba's Center of Molecular Immunology, said U.S. economic sanctions against the island have forced local scientists to be more resourceful in developing coronavirus vaccines.
"Our installed capacities in all of our scientific facilities are sufficient to embrace clinical development and exports," he said.
So far, the Caribbean nation has reported 30,345 confirmed coronavirus cases with 225 deaths. Enditem