A group of 26 House Democrats has urged President Joe Biden to continue easing sanctions against Cuba with a view to increase the distribution of Cuba´s home-grown COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
In a letter led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), the U.S. lawmakers celebrated Joe Biden´s recent steps loosening travel and family remittance restrictions to Cuba, while asking for two-way cooperation on public health.
“As an initial step, we ask that you to review U.S. policy towards Cuba in order to facilitate greater global vaccine equity, with a particular focus on guaranteeing that U.S. sanctions do not impede present or future efforts by Cuba to share COVID-19 vaccines and related technology and medical support with low-income nations around the world,” they wrote.
The lawmakers said the Cuban vaccines, produced at reduced cost with limited infrastructure, could assist the Joe Biden administration’s goal to distribute cheap and effective vaccines worldwide.
26 democrats call on Biden to remove sanctions against Cuba harming the country’s ability to vaccinate its own population and placing obstacles in the way of Cuba’s ability to produce and distribute its vaccines to other countries https://t.co/8RQqEHTkm5
— Daniel Menocal (@DanielMenocalCu) June 16, 2022
However, “U.S. sanctions on Cuba directly impede these goals, not only by harming the country’s ability to vaccinate its own population but also by placing obstacles in the way of Cuba’s ability to produce and distribute its vaccines to other nations that continue to face shortages,” wrote the Democrats.
The Democrats called on Biden to target specific policies that stand in the way of medical cooperation. One initial step would be to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, “which restricts and intimidates financial institutions from allowing transactions related to medical equipment,” and another to add Cuban vaccines to the list of vaccines recognized by the U.S.
The letter by the lawmakers also refer to the validation process of Cuban vaccines before the World Health Organization (WHO).
On May 25, the Cuban Health Minister, José Ángel Portal; and the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a meeting in Geneva in the context of the 75th WHO Assembly. Dr. Ghebreyesus recognized and congratulated Cuba’s response to COVID-19 and its efforts to assist other countries in the medical field.
In spite of attempts to discredit and hinder its medical cooperation, Cuba sent health personnel to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in 42 nations, with 58 specialized medical brigades from the Henry Reeve contingent, whose members have been added to the over 28,000 Cuban health professionals serving in 59 nations.
Cuba has developed 5 Covid vaccines! 😮 US sanctions, however, are thwarting Cuba's efforts to distribute these vaccines to low-income nations.
Don't let US sanctions hinder attempts to vaccinate the world! Urge your Rep to call for Cuba Covid relief.https://t.co/zrydJpXXmv
— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 3, 2022
Cuba, despite its economic situation (worsened by the tightening of the U.S. blockade), has historically taken a step forward in public health policy, The Hill newspaper reported.
Cuba has shown an over 90% immunization rate against COVID-19, despite restrictions on importing precursors and equipment that allow it to develop its own vaccination program, the Hill highlighted.