Cuba has expressed its readiness to revive plans to establish a vaccine manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe that was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They based the plan on the idea of improving Zimbabwe’s local drug manufacturing and supply industry.
Cuban Ambassador to Zimbabwe Carmelina Rodriguez said the plant was part of efforts to improve the country’s health delivery capacity. “We have a plan to establish a plant in Zimbabwe for the production of vaccines. That project started before Covid-19, but we stopped because of the pandemic.”
“The idea was to produce different vaccines for animals and human beings. Covid has been a challenge and almost all projects had ceased. But we are now on track to restart the project,” she said.
For decades, Zimbabwe has been a net importer of pharmaceutical products. The industry collapse was because of economic difficulties whereby companies shut down or reduced production.
In October, President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe said the country recognized the importance of biotechnology in transforming the lives of Zimbabweans through local production of food, medicinal drugs, and industrial products.
He said the Government would continue supporting the pharmaceutical industry as it seeks to increase local production of medicines.
Cuba already has a vibrant biotechnology industry that produces medicines and vaccines for various diseases. The Island currently exports its pharmaceutical products to over 40 countries worldwide. A transfer of skills into Zimbabwe would help grow the vision in line with the National Development Strategy.
Ambassador Rodriguez said the original plan for the project had not included the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines. However, there is room for discussions for vaccine production once the plant is established.
Cuba has developed its own Covid-19 vaccines, the Soberana 02, Soberana Plus, and Abdala. To date, the Caribbean nation has vaccinated over 80% of its population. The vaccines are in use in Iran, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Venezuela.
“We had not talked about the Covid vaccine production, but that is also possible if we get the buy-in of both countries, but the idea is to first create a facility. We want to create a biotechnology agency that will lead that project,” said the Ambassador.
Zimbabwe and Cuba have shared good relations for over 40 years. Over the years, Cuba offered support to the country’s liberation struggle, teacher training, and health personnel.
Currently, Cuba has a small brigade of 36 doctors posted in all provincial hospitals across the country.
Ambassador Rodriguez said Zimbabwe was looking at increasing the number of doctors posted in the country.
“Cuba and Zimbabwe have always had a vibrant relationship since before independence. We have doctors deployed in all provincial hospitals across Zimbabwe, and we have the intention to increase the number of medical practitioners in Zimbabwe. That is part of our intention to improve the health capacity,” she added.
Information source: The Herald, Zimbabwe