On Tuesday, July 21st, San Francisco became the
first major U.S. city to pass a resolution (attached) to promote medical
and scientific collaboration with Cuba to combat the COVID-19 global
pandemic. Supervisor Hillary Ronen was lead sponsor with
Supervisors Peskin and Walton co-sponsoring. The resolution calls
upon the U.S. government to lift economic sanctions that restrict the
evaluation and importation of promising anti-viral treatments that have
been developed by Cuba's biotech industry.
"I am proud to have sponsored this important resolution
which passed unanimously," Supervisor Ronen remarked.
"Cuba is among the top countries that found effective treatments for
Ebola and Swine Flu. Limiting cooperation [with Cuba] makes no sense.
This resolution is part of a wider movement," she continued, "
no matter which administration is in power in Washington DC."
Vicki Legion, a long-time professor of public health at SF
City College and adjunct at San Francisco State University, was enthusiastic
about the possibilities for cooperation that the resolution opens up.
"It is tragic that frontline medications developed by Cuba are
blocked from use in the US by the cruel and unjust blockade of Cuba.
Interferon Alfa2B is a leading pharmaceutical developed by Cuba's Center
for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), and is a top medication
in the Chinese formulary for treating coronavirus." If restrictions
were lifted, Alfa2B could be incorporated into U.S. clinical trials and
open the path for approval by the FDA.
Nesbit Crutchfield, a Richmond psychologist who has visited
Cuba several times, commented on the particular importance of cooperation
with Cuba for Black and Brown communities. "I am especially
concerned with the disproportionate way in which the pandemic is ravaging
communities of color in the Bay Area and around the country. As a
Black man living with many co-morbidities, I and my family would welcome
the inclusion of Alpha2B into clinical trials. It is such a shame that Cuba
has developed other highly effective medications, such as Heberprot-P
that prevents 77% of diabetic amputations, but it is not available in the
US because of the blockade."
Similar resolutions have been recently been passed in
Richmond and Berkeley as part of the new Saving Lives
Campaign launched in early May. Alicia Jrapko, co-chair of the
National Network on Cuba, pointed out the significance of San Francisco's
resolution "Given San Francisco's role as a global medical and
bio-tech powerhouse, the resolution provides a direction for cooperative
medical collaboration with Cuba that can have impact across the whole
David Paul, a nurse practitioner who has worked at SF
General Hospital, noted that the resolution specifically encourages the
SF Department of Health to explore collaborations with Cuba. "It is
exciting that the resolution passed unanimously" Paul stated.
"Now we need to make sure that concrete steps are taken to implement
International Committee for Peace, Justice and