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Executive Summary: THE IMPACT OF REGIONALLY-PRODUCED COVID-19 VACCINES IN LATIN AMERICA

Benedetta Piva, Jasmine Woolley, Brinn Davis, SOUTHCOM

Week of Monday, October 4, 2021


Map of Cuba, location for the production of the Soberana and Abdala COVID-19 Vaccines[1]


Injections of both the Soberana and Abdala vaccines produced in Cuba began in May 2021 on the island as part of a public health intervention reserved for the most affected areas.[2] Cuban vaccines can be stored between two and eight degrees Celsius in comparison to other vaccines which need to be stored in cooler temperatures.[3] This will be an advantage in Latin America where stable refrigeration is difficult.[4] The production of the Soberana and Abdala vaccines is very likely to have political, social, and economic implications for the island and the region as a whole. The vaccines are almost certainly expected to boost cooperation between Latin American countries, as well as political relations with other nations receiving the vaccine, such as Vietnam or Iran. Cuba’s vaccine production will likely alleviate distribution inequalities and enable faster delivery of vaccines throughout Latin America. Cuban vaccines will likely lead to economic benefits because of exportation and the positive impact vaccinations will have on tourism. However, it will be important to provide technical help to the vaccine production process, such as ensuring that there are adequate facilities and resources for vaccine production and storage. This will likely decrease the potential for production drawbacks, such as a loss of product due to inadequate storage facilities, or an inability to produce the promised number of vaccines due to a lack of resources. Cuban vaccine distribution agreements could likely lead to political coercion, corruption, and obscuring of human rights violations within Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, due to the asymmetric power dynamics in the region.


Cuba has exported five million Abdala doses to Vietnam which will enable the Vietnamese government to begin vaccine rollouts to control the pandemic and prevent new variants.[5] This will likely strengthen the relationship between Cuba and Vietnam. There is a roughly even chance that the agreement between the two countries will open avenues for partnership between South America and Southeast Asia, with medical cooperation at the forefront. Similarly, the distribution agreement between Cuba and Iran will have a roughly even chance of leading to international cooperation with the Middle East, as the Iranian government has not accepted vaccines from the US or the United Kingdom.[6] Future cooperation between Cuba and Iran could likely include agreements such as trade deals or strategic alliances. Cuba also plans to share its vaccines with other Latin American countries like Argentina or Mexico, which are facing large outbreaks and vaccine shortages.[7] However, the rollout will likely be slow due to differing regulatory requirements between governments. Domestic political tensions in countries such as Cuba and Haiti will also likely prevent rollout agreements from being achieved.[8] This will almost certainly be detrimental to civilians as they will not have access to vaccines.


Differing power dynamics between Latin American countries could likely lead to unequal access to vaccines across the region. This could likely result in political coercion and acceptance of corruption. Rollout agreements and politicization of the pandemic in bilateral discussions are likely to exacerbate existing political tensions, limiting dialogue between governments such as Cuba and Colombia. This will likely impact trade agreements between Cuba and other Latin American countries regarding raw materials needed for vaccines and other goods. Slow vaccine production will likely aggravate tensions between citizens and their governments. Countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina have sought help from Russia to receive the Sputnik-V vaccine in response to the national outbreaks.[9] These partnerships with Russia will likely increase the dependency of Latin American countries on Russia in other sectors after the pandemic ends. Future trade deals and political agreements will likely be linked to vaccine distribution agreements, allowing foreign governments to influence the outcome of political decisions in Latin America.


Partnerships made between Latin American and foreign governments may result in certain governments not being held accountable for human rights violations. Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has faced sanctions from the US as well as other organizations in response to human rights abuses, which is crucial in creating accountability.[10] As Cuba’s vaccines are being sent to Venezuela, Maduro’s government is not likely to receive criticism from Cuba and other regional governments. This will almost certainly have long-term impacts on the social well-being of citizens, who may attempt to migrate to nearby countries for protection if their safety continues to be placed at risk by the current administration.


Latin American countries have struggled to receive vaccines due to significant distribution inequalities, with only 37% of individuals in the region currently vaccinated.[11] The production of the Cuban vaccines will very likely improve vaccination distribution and decrease the possibility of new variants rapidly spreading. Increased vaccine distribution in the region is likely to allow families to return to work, alleviating the socio-economic challenges that they will have experienced as a result. The production of vaccines in Cuba may also enable more thorough medical responses to other infectious diseases prevalent in the region such as HIV and malaria, due to improved access to resources and medical knowledge.[12] The swift distribution of Cuban vaccines will likely alleviate public dissatisfaction with the vaccine rollout.


The National Academy of Medicine in Venezuela has questioned the reliability of the Cuban vaccine due to limited research into its efficacy.[13] Abdala is yet to be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and similar regulatory agencies.[14] Lack of research into the safety of the vaccine will likely threaten the well-being of civilians and result in distrust in its effectiveness and vaccine hesitancy. If vaccines are not accepted, economic impacts are very likely to occur as tourism will be limited and employees may be unable to return to work. However, if governments can educate civilians on the vaccination process and its importance it is very likely that vaccine hesitancy will reduce, making vaccine administration easier for Latin American governments.


COVID-19 vaccine production can likely be a major stimulus in Latin American economies. Since May, 80% of the Cuban population has been given the first dose of the regionally-produced vaccine, with 50% fully vaccinated in comparison to the global average of 34%.[15] If their projection is on track, Cuba will very likely be the first country in the world to fully vaccinate their population using their own vaccinations.[16] The reduced cost of producing their own vaccines will likely enable increased economic funding towards other impacts of COVID-19 such as unemployment and support for local businesses. Tourism is expected to re-open in November, which will likely entail significant economic improvement for the population, enabling Cuba to recover from COVID-19 more rapidly.[17]


The pandemic has placed a considerable strain on the global economy, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it has been the main contributor to the high rates of unemployment experienced in these regions.[18] BioCubaFarm, the manufacturer of the Abdala, Soberana 2, and Soberana Plus vaccines, claims that the annual capacity for vaccine production is at 100 million, and once meeting the initial supply goal of 100 million, it will also begin exporting to Iran and Venezuela.[19] If Cuba can successfully begin to export vaccines, it will likely have to rely less heavily on tourism and other sectors for its wealth. With regional vaccine production, there will almost certainly be an increased demand for workers, which will very likely reduce unemployment. With a greater percentage of the population vaccinated, it is likely that the workforce will regain its numbers. A higher vaccination rate is likely to attract a greater number of tourists by promoting a healthy and safe environment. Vaccine production within Cuba is likely the best option to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continue monitoring the social well-being of Latin American citizens and determine if vaccine inequality continues after the distribution. NGOs can likely assist in transporting technical equipment needed for storing vaccines like refrigerators and medical supplies to rural areas. Governments and human rights organizations should monitor vaccine distribution both within and outside of Latin America as these could likely influence future trade deals and political alignments. Human rights organizations should monitor vaccine distribution agreements made between Latin America and external countries. It will be crucial to monitor if violators of human rights are not being held accountable for their actions due to these COVID-19 agreements.


In order to effectively monitor the ongoing vaccine rollout in Cuba, the SOUTHCOM Team will provide updates and analysis on the evolving situation. With vaccines being exported to other countries, it will be critical to monitor the situation in Cuba, as this is likely to have impacts on political dialogue between governments, the economy, and within communities across Latin America. The SOUTHCOM Team will monitor this situation using Open Source Intelligence methods in order to provide real-time analysis on the impacts of the Cuban Soberana and Abdala vaccines.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection and analysis, as well as investigative work on counterterrorism. Innovation must be constantly adapted to ensure financial stability. Our 24/7 W.A.T.C.H services produce daily threat intelligence, also designed to complement other intelligence products which utilize analytical and scenario-based planning for the quick assessment of terrorist networks that are fanatical about their profession. CTG’s innovative teams can support terrorism, criminal, financial, and cyber threats to maintain its leading edge in this ever-evolving industry with growing demands among enterprises, academia, and professional institutions alike for intelligence, and security solutions made easy but hard hitting all at once! All CTG products are the perfect go-to source for anyone who’s interested in following geopolitical events, especially those that affect or could potentially affect their personal security. We can provide you with the safety and protection needed to feel secure. No matter if it’s just one person or an entire organization, we can handle everything for your peace of mind. We are the present, and future solution to the ever-evolving global threat landscape. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Cuba map.png” by Directorate of Intelligence, CIA licensed under Public Domain

[2] Covid-19 : Cuba autorise d'urgence Soberana, son second vaccin, Europe 1, August 2021, https://www.europe1.fr/international/covid-19-cuba-autorise-durgence-soberana-son-second-vaccin-4062968 (translated by Brinn Davis)

[3] Covid-19 : Cuba autorise d'urgence Soberana, son second vaccin, Europe 1, August 2021, https://www.europe1.fr/international/covid-19-cuba-autorise-durgence-soberana-son-second-vaccin-4062968 (translated by Brinn Davis)

[4] Ibid

[5] Cuba kicks off COVID-19 vaccine exports with shipment to Vietnam, Reuters, September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/cuba-kicks-off-covid-19-vaccine-exports-with-shipment-vietnam-2021-09-25/

[6] Exclusive: Under U.S. sanctions, Iran and Venezuela strike oil export deal, Reuters, September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exclusive-under-us-sanctions-iran-venezuela-strike-oil-export-deal-sources-2021-09-25/

[7] Timeline: Tracking Latin America's Road to Vaccination, AS/COA, October 2021, https://www.as-coa.org/articles/timeline-tracking-latin-americas-road-vaccination

[8] Cuba and Haiti must find their own way forward, Financial Times, July 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/ecd11c0d-4853-44e5-a017-d276b1ac8e75

[9] In Vaccine Race, Russia Trips in Latin America, AS/COA, August 2021, https://www.as-coa.org/articles/vaccine-manufacturing-race-russia-trips

[10] Exclusive: Under U.S. sanctions, Iran and Venezuela strike oil export deal, Reuters, September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exclusive-under-us-sanctions-iran-venezuela-strike-oil-export-deal-sources-2021-09-25/

[11] Targeting vaccine inequality, WHO announces plans to announce COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America, Global Americans, September 2021, https://theglobalamericans.org/2021/09/targeting-vaccine-inequality-who-announces-plans-to-announce-covid-19-vaccines-in-latin-america/

[12] BioNTech aims to develop mRNA-based malaria vaccine, Reuters, July 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/biontech-aims-develop-mrna-based-malaria-vaccine-2021-07-26/

[13] Cuba begins commercial exports of its COVID-19 vaccines, Al Jazeera, September 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/28/cuba-begins-commercial-exports-of-its-covid-19-vaccines

[14] Venezuelan academy of medicine expresses concern over use of Cuban vaccine, Reuters, September 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/venezuelan-academy-medicine-expresses-concern-over-use-cuban-vaccine-2021-09-27/

[15] Cuba aims to fully inoculate 90% of residents against COVID-19 by December, Reuters, October 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuba-aims-fully-inoculate-90-residents-against-covid-19-by-december-2021-10-01/

[16] Cuba wants to win the global race to vaccinate its population against COVID-19 — and it's doing it with homegrown jabs, ABC News, September 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-29/how-this-tiny-communist-island-developed-covid-vaccines/100490568

[17] Cuba begins to reopen economy as COVID-19 vaccine campaign races ahead, Reuters, September, 2021 https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuba-starts-reopen-economy-covid-19-vaccine-campaign-races-ahead-2021-09-24/

[18] Cuba begins to reopen economy as COVID-19 vaccine campaign races ahead, Reuters, September, 2021 https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuba-starts-reopen-economy-covid-19-vaccine-campaign-races-ahead-2021-09-24/

[19] Ibid

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