Feature: Cuba presses ahead with COVID-19 vaccination rollout despite U.S. embargo

2021-06-18 06:36:06 GMT2021-06-18 14:36:06(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

HAVANA, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Mirtha Elena Amestoy, a retired office worker living in central Havana, received her first dose of Abdala COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

As part of a sanitary intervention of domestic vaccines taking place in the country's capital of Havana, about 1.7 million people are expected to be immunized against COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

The 86-year-old voiced confidence that Cuba will vaccinate its entire population by the end of the year despite the intensified U.S. embargo against the country.

"This is something I had long waited for since the pandemic began. It is like starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," she told Xinhua.

Anabel Vazquez, a Cuban general practitioner, told Xinhua that the United States had hindered the country's access to medical supplies and raw material to produce local vaccines.

"We are working hard to vaccinate our whole population despite the obstacles imposed by the U.S. blockade. Nothing will stop the pace of our vaccination campaign," she said.

Havana, home to 2 million people, has seen a slight decline in COVID-19 daily cases over the past few weeks, due to the mass vaccination drive, according to local authorities.

Medical student Carmen Caballero said that supporting the work of doctors and nurses during the coronavirus crisis will very much help hone her skill as a professional.

"This is a historic moment, and I am learning a lot. I feel very proud of being part of it. I am giving my helping hand to contain the spread of the virus," she said.

In the coming weeks, Cuba's Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices is expected to grant emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers in the Caribbean nation.

The Cuban government plans to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by August.

Havana resident Victoria Montero said that the Cuban authorities are sending a very clear message to the world about the quality of its public health system.

"I have no doubt we will make it. Cuba is giving an example of what governments can do with political will. I am feeling very optimistic," she said.

First imposed in 1962, the U.S. embargo was intensified during the Trump administration, which implemented more than 240 economic measures against the country.

Cuba registered on Thursday 1,418 new COVID-19 infections and five more deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the national counts to 163,415 and 1,123 respectively, according to the Public Health Ministry. Enditem