Cuba is vaccinating toddlers. Why is this important, and what can we learn from Cuba?
The countries around the world are trying their best to vaccinate their population to control the spread of COVID-19 infections. India is putting a lot of efforts to vaccinate everyone above the age of 18, and it is also looking to vaccinate teenagers once those vaccines get appropriate approvals. It makes sense that a lot of countries are trying to vaccinate teenagers because once the economy reopens, they will be going back to schools, and they will be vulnerable to the virus. Meanwhile, there is a country that is vaccinating toddlers.
Cuba has become the first country in the world to vaccinate children as young as two years old. Reports claimed, as mentioned by WION, clinical trials on minors were conducted on Friday, and vaccines for the toddlers were distributed on Monday.
There are two homegrown vaccines that Cuba has launched for use among children, and adolescents — Soberana-2 and Abdala. Last week, the Medicines Regulatory Agency (Cecmed) announced it had approved the emergency use of the Soberana-2 vaccine for children in the 2–18 years age group. Soberana-2 is a two-dose vaccine, while Abdala is a three-dose jab, and it is being given to adults.
More About The Vaccines
The vaccines that are being administered in Cuba are the first that have been developed in Latin America. All these vaccines are protein subunit vaccines. These vaccines do not contain any parts of the novel coronavirus, but only its surface spike protein, which it utilises to invade human cells.
The recombinant technology on which the two Cuban vaccines are based are like the shots made by U.S-based Novovax, which the Serum Institute of India is licensed to produce in India. This technology involves extracting the genetic information for the spike protein, and then inserting it into bacteria or yeast cells, and then harvesting the spikes to create the vaccine.
Both the Cuban vaccines are said to have over 90% efficacy. However, the efficacy, and safety data for these vaccines haven’t been published in any peer-reviewed journal.
On the other hand, since these vaccines use only a fragment of the virus, they are considered very safe. But because of this, it also means that they are unable to create long-lasting immunity of the kind possible with vaccines that contain an inactivated or weakened form of the virus. Therefore, protein subunit vaccines need follow-up booster doses, and may be administered along with an adjuvant, which is any substance administered with the vaccine to “create a stronger immune response.”
Why Vaccinate Kids?
Cuba is seeing a big jump in cases and has been adding over 6,000 cases daily since the middle of July. At present, the case count is hovering now at around 7,000 cases. If we view it in terms of cases per million people, the count in the country of 11. 3 million people is among the highest in the world.
So, in order to achieve herd immunity, it has become important to vaccinate kids. Hence, countries, including Cuba, are racing to inoculate their children. Cuban authorities had stated that they are looking to ensure that they are aiming to now vaccinate at least 90% of the population.
The pandemic has had adverse effects on Cuba’s tourism industry, thus affecting its economy. So, now the country is trying to reopen amidst the spread of Delta variant. Also, internet is not widespread in Cuba, so it becomes highly important to reopen schools in order for the kids to continue their education. Hence, Cuba’s decision to vaccinate kids is a welcoming one. However, these vaccines are yet to undergo any international, scientific peer review. Also, the vaccines are not recognised by the World Health Organisation. In the end, we need to wait, and see whether the inoculation of kids help Cuba achieve herd immunity, and also, control the spread of the infection.