Health Care Sector

Risk Perception and the Incidence of COVID in Cuba

Covid stats in Cuba - perception and the reality, sometimes two completely different things. Photo courtesy: Roberto Suárez/ Juventud Rebelde

There is currently a high perception of alarm about the incidence of COVID in Cuba, not only among the Cuban population but also abroad. What are the causes? The issue is multi-factored and not due to a single reason.

The first cause is related to the health care system in Cuba. Serious diseases do not have a prolonged incidence in the population on the Island.

The second cause is the powerful immunization program created in 1962. Communicable diseases – including those preventable by vaccines – were the primary cause of death in children. The immunization program eliminated six diseases. Vaccination coverage is above 98% for all vaccines and the population has a high immunity level.

An average of 4,800,000 doses of vaccines is administered annually in Cuba to protect against 13 diseases. Most of these vaccines are produced domestically.

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Equally important is the role played by the media that opposes Cuba and produces fake news. The generalization of isolated cases or magnified situations have repercussions both in the local population and outside the island. The statistics published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Johns Hopkins University demonstrate the situation in Cuba is better when compared to other countries, including developed countries.

The death rate of those infected with COVID in Cuba is 0.69. In the Americas, it is 2.69. Death from the disease in Cuba is 37 times lower than Peru, 36.2 times lower than Brazil, 33.4 times lower than Mexico, 26.8 times better than in Chile and Argentina, and 34.8 times lower than in the United States.

It is not all numbers in the considering COVID in Cuba. There are situations in Cuba that affect the perception of risk by Cubans. The Island is not only facing the disease as a phenomenon that affects the well-being of the people. The extraterritorial nature of the embargo makes it a problem for the economy.

The Trump administration has enacted over 200 measures against Cuba. Fuel transportation, the acquisition of food and sanitary resources to face the pandemic, makes the life of Cubans more complicated.

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In this situation, the Island has had to face the pandemic. After the first wave and in the face of the rapid actions of Cuban science and health, the virus was controlled. This led to the decision to relax the measures to revive the most important spheres of the Cuban economy — the tourism sector. In reviving tourism, it provoked a resurgence.

Food is scarce and has generated confusion in the markets that were difficult to control. Restrictions and limitations have been prolonged. This has generated a “COVID fatigue” among Cubans resulting in the relaxation of daily activities.

Marginalization in certain sectors of the population has boosted the spread of the virus. It also reflected in the proliferation of a black market that magnifies the problem and creates a perception of an extreme situation.

The economy has been hurt because of an accumulation of factors. It is impossible to restrict more. This could lead to a social explosion. There is only one avenue left to take—with vaccination since there is no cure for COVID yet.

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Finally, the process of vaccination cannot be sped up. This generates a sense of relaxation that is perceptible in the streets and homes.

“Cuba is innovating, not improvising,” said a renowned scientist. Faced with economic pressure, the shortages generated by the deterioration of international trade, the lack of a cure for COVID, Cuba has determined a strategy. Trusting in the potential of science and betting on manufacturing its own drugs and vaccines. Cuba may be the first country in the world to immunize its entire population with its own vaccines. Cuba’s decision to rely on its strengths is paying off.

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