ZIMBABWE – Cuba has expressed its readiness to revive its plans to establish a vaccine manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe which had stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan was mooted with the idea of improving Zimbabwe’s local drug manufacture 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 been stopped. But we are now on track to restart the project,” she said.

For decades, Zimbabwe has been a net importer of pharmaceutical products owing to the collapse of the industry due to economic hardships that saw most companies close or scale down production.

In October, President Mnangagwa said the Second Republic recognized the importance of bio-technology 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 bio-technology industry that produces medicines and vaccines for various diseases to more than 40 countries worldwide and a transfer of skills into Zimbabwe would help grow the vision in line with the National Development Strategy 1.

Ambassador Rodriguez said although the original plan for the project had not included the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, there was room for discussions to that effect once the plant was in place.

Cuba has developed its own Covid-19 vaccines, the Soberana 02, Soberana Plus, and Abdala, which have been used in a successful vaccination campaign that has covered more than 70 percent of the population. The vaccines are already being used in Iran, Venezuela and Mexico.

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 bio-technology agency that will be leading that project,” said the Ambassador.

Zimbabwe and Cuba have shared good relations that date back more than 40 years. The Caribbean Island offered training ground for liberation war fighters during the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence and later offered to train teachers and health professionals.

Currently, Cuba has a small brigade of 36 medical doctors posted in all provincial hospitals across the country. Ambassador Rodriguez said the country 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.

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