Yesterday, on “Democracy Now,” Amy Goodman reported good news for the poor countries of the Global South. In the news headline portion of her show , she said, “Cuba has pledged to donate 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries in the Global South. The move was announced at talks hosted by the Progressive International and was heralded as a possible ‘historic turning point’ in the pandemic.”
You’d think that the announcement would be welcomed and celebrated everywhere and be given at least as much press coverage as the one-day protests in Cuba reported so breathlessly last November 15th. However, no such general celebration occurred. Even on “Democracy Now,” the story went undeveloped beyond the just-quoted headline. Meanwhile, in contrast to its hysteria over Cuban protests last fall, the U.S. government itself has been totally silent about this potentially game changing development.
Nevertheless, according to international health experts, Cuba’s achievement could make vaccinations much more available for example to 1.3 billion Africans whose continent has seen only 7% of its population receive even a single vaccination dose. (And this in contrast to 70% vaccination rates in richer countries.)
According to reports even on CNBC’s online source, the five Cuban vaccines in question:
- Are a uniquely Cuban development among the former colonies
- Have been administered in three doses to a higher percentage (86%) of Cuba’s 11 million people than in most of the world’s richest countries
- Are not dependent on expensive mRNA technology using instead a “subunit protein” variety – like the Novavax vaccine
- Are cheap to produce
- Require no special refrigeration
- Enjoy 90% effectiveness against all strains of COVID 19
- Will have no patent restrictions on their recipes shared with low-income countries
- Will be made available to them virtually at cost
- Are a tribute to Cuba’s legendarily efficient health care system
Currently, Cuba’s prestigious biotech industry is awaiting approval for its vaccine developments from the World Health Organization. That approval is expected early this year. According to Helen Yaffee of the University of Glasgow, “. . . many countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025.”
As for cost and distribution issues, John Kirk, professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia added, “The objective of Cuba is not to make a fast buck, unlike the multinational drug corporations, but rather to keep the planet healthy.”
But in news cycles dominated by pharmaceutical corporations that refuse to waive intellectual property rights to their largely publicly funded products, such contrasting humanitarian consciousness goes mostly underpublicized and by such silence, denied.
Denial like that prevails despite the appeals for sharing vaccine recipes by the World Health Organization itself supported by civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights organizations.
Part of the reparations due Cuba for 60 years of economic embargo and for silence about its achievements is to at last recognize its socialism as a force for global humanitarianism much more beneficial to the world than international capitalism.