Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Culture

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Mariah Carey Got Her First Dose Of The Vaccine And Made It Into An Iconic Moment

Entertainment

Mariah Carey Got Her First Dose Of The Vaccine And Made It Into An Iconic Moment

@MariahCarey / Twitter

Vaccines are rolling out across the country. People are getting their shots so life can finally start getting back to normal after a year of quarantining and social distancing. Mariah Carey let her fans join on her first shot and it became iconic.

Mariah Carey got her first shot of the vaccine and hit that whistle note.

More and more Americans are finally getting vaccinated to get the world back to normal. More than 160 million vaccines have been given in the U.S. and people are starting to see the results. Life is slowly getting back to normal for families who haven’t seen each other in years.

The singer was “excited and nervous a little bit” about getting the vaccine. Her demeanor showed just how impactful it is for people to do their part to get us back to normal.

True to form, Carey was in her camera-ready pose when she was getting ready.

People receiving the vaccine are told to keep their arm relaxed but Carey clearly isn’t made for that. How do you just turn off your star charisma?

It’s important to keep your arm relaxed while you are getting your vaccination to save you from the pain. If your arm is tense or in an awkward position, it is more likely to move during the jab, which can be painful. Listen to your nurses.

Some people are very curious how someone so young got the vaccine.

President Joe Biden announced that all states must make vaccine eligibility open to all adults by April 19. Some states are allowing people as young as 16 to get vaccinated. This is an accelerated deadline from the previously called for May 1. President Biden has worked hard to push the vaccination rate up and he has delivered on his promises for various vaccination deadlines.

People want to know if the vocal skills are a side effect of the vaccine.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories circulating about the vaccine. Some people believe that Bill Gates is microchipping them using the vaccine. It is a conspiracy that persists despite people definitively debunking the theory.

Congratulations, Mariah!

The world is eager to get back to normal and the vaccination rollout across the world is going to get us there. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is slowly releasing new guidelines about what fully vaccinated people are able to do.

For example, it is safe for fully vaccinated people to gather in small groups indoors without masks and social distancing. Fully vaccinated people can also fly on airplanes without much risk because of the effectiveness of the vaccine.

READ: This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com