Will Cuba’s Vaccine Rollout Live Up to the Ad Copy?

“Cuba’s socialist approach to developing vaccines against Covid-19 differs strikingly from that of capitalist nations of the world developing vaccines. Socialist Cuba’s production of four vaccines is grounded in science, in a dedication to saving the lives of all Cubans, and in international solidarity.”

That quote is from “Cuba develops COVID-19 vaccines, takes socialist approach,in the February 4 People’s World, a continuation of the Daily Worker, founded in 1924. According to its author, W. T. Whitney—a “Cuba solidarity activist,” and former pediatrician—the technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines “may be less safe than the one used in Cuban vaccines.”

The American approach to producing and distributing Covid-19 vaccines, Whitney contends, is not like that of Cuba, a country not subject to the profit motive. All told, the People’s World piece is not far removed from the story on Cuba’s “homegrown” vaccination program by Dr. Marianne Guenot in the February 15 Business Insider

After the revolution of 1959,” according to Guenot, “foreign and domestically-owned pharma companies were nationalized, and the Cuban government has run a centralized biotech industry ever since.” Guenot cites Helen Yaffe, a “Cuba expert” and author of We Are Cuba!: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World, that “in the advanced capitalist countries in Europe and the US, we don’t know much about Cuba’s prowess in medical science and global health.” According to Yaffe, Cuba’s biotech industry is “owned by the state and not supported by speculative financing,” and “its priority is not to make money, but prioritize health outcomes.” 

Consider also Coronavirus Vaccine Nears Final Tests in Cuba. Tourists May Be Inoculated,” by Ed Augustin and Natalie Kitroeff in the February 17 New York Times. “Cuba is floating the idea of enticing tourists to its shores with the irresistible cocktail of sun, sand and a shot of Sovereign 2,” the vaccine now slated for a final phase of trials. 

During the early stages of the pandemic, according to Augustin and Kitroeff, “anyone diagnosed with the virus was immediately hospitalized and put on a cocktail of Cuban and generic drugs.” Cuba was “leaning on its tight control of the population and an efficient system for delivering health care.” By contrast, as first line explains, “People wait in line for four hours to buy detergent in Havana. Cuban pharmacies are out of pain medication. There are national bread shortages.” So the authors left the key by the front door. 

As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa notes, Europe’s disastrous vaccine rollout is “a lesson for Americans about the dangers of putting too much authority—and too much trust—in the hands of bureaucracies and politicians.” In Cuba, the Communist dictatorship controls the medical system, the economy, and all information, so government statistics and claims are suspect.

Foreign journalists, tourists and governments alike should be wary of that “irresistible cocktail of sun, sand and a shot of Sovereign 2.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.
Posts by K. Lloyd Billingsley | Full Biography and Publications
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