CUBA has offered to send its team of specialist doctors to Nigeria to come and administer its wonder drug Alpha 2B that achieved significant success in containing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in China’s Wuhan province.
Late last year, the virus started in Wuhan and from there spread across the country and subsequently the rest of the world, making it a global pandemic. However, the rate of infection has significantly reduced in China with it having less affected people than countries like the US, Italy and Spain.
China has also suffered less deaths than Italy, the US, Spain and France, enabling it to lift some of the restrictions on movement. Earlier this week, a team of Chinese experts arrived in the UK to help share their expertise with the health authorities in London, while Cuban medical doctors have been working in Italy.
Clara Escandell, the Cuban ambassador to Nigeria, said that her country’s team of medical experts would be happy to visit Nigeria if invited by the government. She added that given the good relationship between the two countries, Cuba will be attentive to any request for help, but so far, no such request has been made by the Nigerian government.
Ms Escandell said: “Cuba and Nigeria have a historical relationship. Through the veins of many Cubans flows blood from the peoples that make up this great country and there is an enormous cultural and idiosyncratic influence from Nigeria in many aspects of our social life, like music.”
On account of the reputed effectiveness of the Interferon Alpha 2B, about a dozen countries are already knocking on the doors of the Havana government seeking Cuban help. With an eye on the role the Interferon Alpha 2B played in China, the Italian government invited the Cubans who have sent in 50 biomedical experts from its Cuban Medical Brigade Henry Reeve to Italy.
Members of this medical team are veterans in solving complex health situations and have experience in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and in disaster management in countries like Haiti and Pakistan when they were shaken by earthquakes. Although the Interferon Alpha 2B is not a vaccine, it is one of the 30 medicines chosen by the Chinese National Health Commission to fight the virus.
Helen Yaffe, who teaches Cuban and Latin American development at the University of Glasgow, explained how Cuba’s early entry into the biotech industry paved a path for the small island nation to harness international expertise and develop medicines to fight a range of diseases from dengue fever and meningitis to Covid-19. While the Interferon Alpha 2B had been used in the effective management of meningitis, some cancer, dengue fever and HIV, Ms Yaffe argues that the drug’s brightest moment was the 1989/90 meningitis campaign when 3m Cubans most at risk were vaccinated.