UPDATE 1-Cuba encouraged by early efficacy results of homegrown COVID-19 vaccine

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By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA, June 19 (Reuters) - Cuba's Soberana 2 vaccine candidate has shown 62% efficacy with just two of its three doses, state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said on Saturday, citing preliminary data from late phase trials.

Cuba, whose biotech sector https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-vaccine-cuba-focus-idUKKBN27S1OZ has exported vaccines for decades, has five vaccine candidates in clinical trials, of which two - Soberana 2 and Abdala - are in late phase trials.

"In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior," said Vicente Vérez​, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which developed Soberana 2.

The news comes as the Caribbean's largest island is facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic in the wake of the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records of daily coronavirus cases.

The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but rather to rely on its own. Experts say it is a risky bet but if it pays off, Cuba could burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

"We know our government has not been able to provide this project all the funding it required, and nonetheless this is a result of global standing," President Miguel Diaz-Canel said at the presentation of the results on state-run television.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba's vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.

Cuba's authorities have started administering the experimental vaccines en masse https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuba-raises-latam-hopes-it-starts-mass-inoculation-with-own-covid-19-shot-2021-05-12 as part of "intervention studies" they hope will slow the spread of the virus.

Daily cases have halved https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/drop-havana-covid-19-cases-boosts-hopes-cuban-vaccines-working-2021-06-17 in the capital since the start of this vaccination campaign, according to official data, although that may also be due to stricter lockdown measures. (Reporting by Anett Rios and Nelson Acosta Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Gregorio)

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