How to get a Cuban COVID jab in 1,000 easy steps | Coronavirus pandemic

On Valentine’s Day 2022 in Havana, Cuba, I acquired the Soberana Plus booster shot, one of many island nation’s 5 homegrown COVID-19 vaccines. The jab had been a very long time coming.

For the previous yr, I had been fixated on the concept of being injected with a made-in-Cuba coronavirus vaccine. Whereas clearly not providing safety in opposition to the imperial machinations of my homeland and Cuba’s chief antagonist, the USA, the Cuban serums have been at the least being developed within the curiosity of world public well being somewhat than pharmaceutical revenue or “vaccine apartheid”, as World Well being Group (WHO) Director Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described it.

Having inadvertently taken up residence in Mexico in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I had initially decided to fly to Havana in April 2021 to await vaccine availability. This plan underwent seemingly infinite changes, because the pandemic-induced suspension of simple air trajectories between Mexico and Cuba – usually a two-hour journey – left me with flight choices like Mexico Metropolis-Cancun-Vancouver-Heathrow-Frankfurt-Havana and Mexico Metropolis-Cancun-Panama Metropolis-Bogota-Madrid-Havana.

The seek for flights was rendered all of the extra pleasant because of interference by the US – which, along with subjecting Cuba to a debilitating 60-year-long embargo for the crime of refusing to undergo capitalist tyranny, has additionally ensured that travellers wishing to peruse flights to Cuba on the web site of the Mexican airline Aeroméxico can not achieve this with out being bombarded with warnings about US restrictions on journey to the nation. Required to certify that I certified for one of many permissible motives for visiting Cuba as a US citizen, I chosen “assist for the Cuban folks” – as if this has ever been an actual concern for the worldwide superpower that has because the Sixties actually schemed to starve the nation into submission.

Sadly, the pandemic offered the US with the chance for much more sadistic remedy of Cuba – and, somewhat than elevate sanctions as per the pressing encouragement of United Nations human rights consultants, the administrations of Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden as a substitute intensified them.

The embargo’s obstruction of medical imports to Cuba – a deadly enterprise if there ever was one – implies that Cuba has needed to deal with an acute scarcity of, inter alia, syringes and ventilators. In an August 2021 dispatch for NBC Information, Havana-based journalist Ed Augustin specified that “two Swiss firms that had beforehand bought Cuba ventilators mentioned they may now not proceed buying and selling with the island after they have been purchased out by Vyaire Medical, an Illinois firm” – such being the character of US efforts to isolate an already remoted island.

And in a Could 2021 article for the Guardian, Augustin reported that the assorted Cuban analysis groups engaged on the COVID-19 vaccines needed to “share only one spectrometer – a machine important for high quality management – {powerful} sufficient to analyse a vaccine’s chemical construction”. Because the machine’s British producer had been purchased out by a US agency – go capitalism! – the Cubans have been now not capable of purchase spare components straight.

Nor has Biden’s determination to depart Cuba on the official State Sponsors of Terrorism record – to which it was added in an unceremonious match throughout Trump’s closing days as president – facilitated the nation’s capacity to interact on the worldwide monetary panorama. This, even supposing designating Cuba a State Sponsor of Terror is kind of the equal in absurdity of making use of the Terror Sponsor label to Stonehenge or the pasta aisle at any given grocery store.

In gentle of such technically incapacitating hurdles, it’s at least totally astounding that Cuba has managed to fabricate no fewer than 5 coronavirus vaccines – to not point out its personal ventilators and different medical gear. As of December 2021, greater than 90 % of the Cuban inhabitants had already been vaccinated with at the least one dose – making it not solely the world’s smallest nation to provide its personal COVID-19 vaccines but additionally a world chief in vaccine administration. Numerous Cuban vaccines have already been reported to take pleasure in an efficacy price of greater than 90 %.

In the end, although, it’s all of a bit with Cuba’s flourishing biotechnology business and the Cuban modus operandi of sticking it to the empire by exerting nationwide sovereignty. It isn’t an accident that Soberana, the identify of the vaccine I ultimately acquired, means “sovereign” in English. Abdala, the identify of one other of the Cuban vaccines, is impressed by a poem by Cuban independence hero José Martí. And all of this, in fact, drives the US loopy.

However my dream of being vaccinated in Cuba, I actually would obtain the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in New York Metropolis in August 2021 within the curiosity of facilitating worldwide journey – which was simply as effectively since, by the point I touched down in Havana in February 2022, the Cubans had begun requiring vaccination certification as a prerequisite for entry.

I arrived within the Cuban capital simply in time for the sixtieth anniversary of the US embargo on February 7. Primary items like espresso and milk have been briefly provide. Vaccines, however, weren’t.

I used to be directed to the Cira García clinic in Havana’s Miramar neighbourhood, which was one of many go-to spots for foreigners wishing to inject themselves with Cuban coronavirus vaccines and which featured a portrait of Fidel Castro within the foyer. For Cubans, clearly, the vaccine is completely free – as is healthcare on the whole – however for me, I used to be instructed, the Soberana Plus booster would incur a charge of $45. This, I reckoned, was a small value to pay to atone for the excesses of my nation, and was the least I might do by way of “assist for the Cuban folks”.

Though the worth was in US {dollars}, nonetheless, the foreign money couldn’t be utilised as a type of cost – nor might some other type of money foreign money. Slightly, a Cuban MLC card (standing for Moneda Libremente Convertible, or freely convertible foreign money) was required – and, considerably, US {dollars} couldn’t be positioned on mentioned card.

Thus ensued an journey by which I needed to discover a Cuban prepared to lend me his MLC card and accompany me to a financial institution after which to the clinic after depositing the equal of $45 to his card. We descended upon the financial institution with my assortment of euros, Mexican pesos, and Turkish lira, and obtained the specified equal, after which we headed to Cira García to grasp my yearlong dream, or so I believed.

On the clinic, my elation was promptly outdated by panic when the kindly septuagenarian physician whipped out a blood strain monitor – an equipment that has impressed an unnatural terror in me for so long as I can bear in mind. It was not attainable, apparently, to manage my Soberana Plus booster with out first acquiring a blood strain studying indicating that I used to be not having a stroke and/or coronary heart assault – and, certain sufficient, my readings have been off the charts, even after the physician had spent half an hour attempting to calm me down with tales from his 4 years of medical service in Mozambique again within the day.

At this time, Cuba continues to put up tens of hundreds of medical personnel overseas, consistent with its decades-long coverage of “docs, not bombs” – which has seen the diminutive nation undertake to fight the worldwide proliferation of all the things from malaria and tuberculosis to Ebola and coronavirus. At dwelling, Cuba presides over the best doctor-to-patient ratio in the complete world – by no means thoughts right-wing propaganda from my very own omnipotent nation that prefers to bomb somewhat than save folks, and to proliferate a story in line with which Cuba’s “slave commerce in docs” has resulted in a scarcity of home medical personnel.

When the Cuban physician’s Mozambican escapades did not decrease my blood strain, the proprietor of the MLC card – who himself hailed from none aside from Guantánamo province, website of the unlawful US offshore penal colony-cum-torture centre (discuss unnatural terror) – introduced me home made wine on the hospital in an effort to sit back me out. Nothing labored, and I used to be despatched dwelling with directions to observe my blood strain each day. The aged physician emphasised that, if the readings continued to be excessive, he might prepare a psychological analysis to find out what underlying explanations there is perhaps for my neurosis – a far cry, to make certain, from the US strategy to healthcare, which is principally to lucratively medicate the hell out of any and all signs with out endeavouring to detect any root trigger or join the dots.

Ultimately, I acquired my Soberana Plus booster in Havana. Suffice it to say that it was not on the Cira García clinic and there was no blood strain machine concerned – though the entire episode did immediate me to order one such equipment off of the web to my dwelling in Mexico, such that I’d practise behaving like a non-neurotic human being sooner or later. This endeavor, too, was briefly thwarted once I found that, because of US sanctions, an individual bodily positioned in Cuba can not order a blood strain equipment through Amazon Mexico to be delivered to their dwelling in Mexico, and that one’s mom within the US state of Kentucky should enter into one’s Amazon account to order the system for them.

In the meantime, Cuba is ploughing forward with plans to ship tens of tens of millions of doses of homegrown coronavirus vaccines to nations within the World South – a surefire antidote to the WHO’s prognosis of world “vaccine apartheid”. As even the pro-imperialist Washington Put up reported in disgruntled vogue final yr, Cuba was mentioned to be “creating low-cost and easy-to-store serums. They’re able to final at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as excessive as 46.4 levels [46.4C or 115.5F], doubtlessly making them a viable choice for low-income, tropical nations which have been pushed apart by larger, wealthier nations within the worldwide scrum for coronavirus vaccines”.

The vast majority of Cuban youngsters aged two to 18 have now been absolutely vaccinated, which, because the Reuters information company famous in February, “proved pivotal in beating again the extremely infectious Omicron variant earlier than it ever took maintain on the island”. And as Cuba continues to place a lot of the world to disgrace on the coronavirus entrance, you may say that the Cuban individuals are supporting us rather more than we’re supporting them.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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