“We are with the Abdala issue, hard and without gloves”. Thus, with that Cuban expression, the general director of AICA Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Antonio Emilio Vallín García, described the way in which his workers fight for health. He said it, this Monday afternoon, to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

This is his third visit, and it was Vallín García who updated those present on the main tasks in which AICA, a company that produces medicines, whose portfolio includes more than 190 of them (which represents 40% of the national basic table).

“How there are young people here…”, said Díaz-Canel when he arrived at the main premises of AICA, where he talked about the current salary incentives to workers, and asked how the productive capacities of vaccines are going, because, he said, “what we need is to immunize and vaccinate more people”.

The site consists of five basic business units (UEB) and 16 production lines distributed in five facilities, the results of which have a direct impact on the health programs.

This year seemed complicated and difficult from the operational point of view, Vallín García explained to the dignitary. Thanks to a recapitalization of the entire production base, AICA “is renewed and with a level of consistency”, in view of the products that are needed to face the COVID-19, or that the basic list of medicines is demanding.

Regarding the Abdala vaccine, Vallín García affirmed that more than 46 batches have already been produced, despite the lack of supplies or of certain materials, because the creativity of all those who are part of this cardinal mission has prevailed.

Speaking of the rigor in Abdala’s production process, he said that the Center for the State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices (Cecmed), “made a detailed inspection, they reviewed batch by batch, file by file”; and one of the strengths referred to by the regulatory entity was “the consistency achieved in the production process”.

Regarding the impact Abdala is having, Doctor in Sciences Eulogio Pimentel Vázquez, vice-president of BioCubaFarma, detailed that in the Havana municipalities where the three doses have already been administered and the 14 days after this triad have passed, a containment is perceived, both in the incidence of COVID-19 transmission and in the level of lethality.

“The more immunization progresses, the greater the containment effect,” said the doctor of Sciences. The President reminded that this trend must be supported by compliance with sanitary measures.

One hundred percent sovereignty

Two production lines -one for face masks (the ones we know as nasobucos), and another for nasopharyngeal swabs- were also visited. These two plants belong to Cuba’s Neurosciences Center, and are examples of how the island is making headway, despite all the fences and difficulties.

Mitchell Valdés Sosa, director of the Neurosciences Center, told reporters: “This is part of the accelerated response the country has had to the epidemic. In six months we were able to urbanize this territory, it was all full of bush, and all the buildings were arranged and built, and in record time we were able to install two industrial plants”.

The first one produces the swabs used for pcr tests, or rapid antigen tests. Mitchell  Valdés recalled that everything began to be done manually, but thanks to a donation and with the participation of more than one international entity, financing was obtained to purchase automatic manufacturing equipment.

“With this new plant we are producing 30,000 to 40,000 per day, and we can, if necessary, double the production capacity.”

“At this moment,” he added, “there is complete sovereignty in these swabs, which cost up to one dollar each on the international market. And it must be said that the raw material, already, is also manufactured here: the plastic sticks and the polyester material strands are supplied to us by other organizations in the country. This means that we have technological sovereignty, completely, and that the cost reduction is extraordinary”.

The second plant that was built is an equipment for the manufacture of surgical masks, explained the expert, who added that, automatically, between 16,000 and 18,000 masks are manufactured daily. “We can reach in the future to double them, we are acquiring additional equipment to achieve it.”

“This gives the country the possibility of having a good percentage of the masks it needs”, emphasized Mitchell Valdés, who added that the first recipients are doctors, “but the intention is to supply the country’s stores, so that citizens can buy them, and also to give them to other workers we have to protect, for example, those involved in tourism, or those in Customs”.

Regarding the two production plants created in record time, which Diaz-Canel was able to visit, the Director of the Neuroscience Center stressed an idea that should not be forgotten: “They were the country’s answers to face COVID-19 in a sustainable way, because all these things, in the international market, cost a lot of money”.