By Mark Friedman and Brenda Lopez, Co-coordinators, LA US Hands off Cuba Committee

The Saving Lives Campaign, which is a broad coalition of local and national organizations opposed to the embargo, and Global Health Partners, a US-based nonprofit with a long history of sending humanitarian medical donations to Cuba, recently launched a broad-based, urgent drive to send vaccine syringes to Cuba. Cuba has ambitious plans to
vaccinate its entire population by the end of the year, and plans to produce 100 million doses of vaccine, to meet its
commitment to sharing its low-cost vaccines with poor countries in the developing world.

The news from Havana about their domestically produced vaccines highlights the importance of this campaign.
Cuba has five Covid-19 vaccines, and two recently completed phase three clinical trials. Last week Cuba announced
that their Abdala vaccine is 92.3% effective, and that it will waive “intellectual property” rights, which means that the
developing world will finally have access to a Covid vaccine. Since Cuba now has two effective vaccines, all it needs
to vaccinate their population are syringes (they need a total of 30 million syringes to vaccinate their population and
they’re roughly 20 million short).

Global Health Partners president Bob Schwartz told this reporter why this so important? “First, it will save lives.
Until their population is fully vaccinated, Covid cases will continue to spread across the island. Second, Cuba’s
economy, which has been ravaged by both the blockade primarily and then the pandemic, will continue to suffer
until it’s once again a safe travel destination. Shortages of food and essential medicines, which is a serious problem
today in Cuba, will improve as soon as Cuba can once again generate hard currency. And finally, as their Foreign
Minister highlighted at the United Nations last week, Cuba has been unable to purchase essential medicines and
medical supplies directly from US manufacturers.”

When started two months ago, there were modest goals – hoping to raise $100,000 and to send 2-3 million syringes
to Cuba. The response to the US appeal has been enthusiastic and overwhelming; raising more than $425,000 and
already purchasing some 4 million syringes to support Cuba’s very ambitious mass vaccination campaign! The
syringes are on their way as you read this article. The new goal to $500,000, to purchase another two million
syringes, which will allow Cuba to vaccinate their entire population before the end of the year!

This is an international effort with many countries taking syringe goals. The nationwide caravans against the
blockade have also taken collections for this effort. To contribute or for more information contact:
Vaccination Syringes for Cuba – Global Health Partners (

Mark Friedman

By Mark Friedman

Mark Friedman is a veteran trade union activist of the International Association of Machinists and the California Teachers Association unions. As a former marine science teacher in an inner-city LA high school he developed a program to hook inner-city Black and Latinx youth in science through unique Marine biology courses and club.