Vicente Larraga, an expert researcher in vaccines, in his CSIC laboratory.Jaime Villanueva
Vicente Larraga (Madrid, 73 years old) is one of the leading experts in Spain in the development of vaccines.
She works at the Margarita Salas Biological Research Center (CIB-CSIC), which is developing one of the Spanish vaccines against the coronavirus, which she plans to finish, if all goes well, by the end of this year.
From his laboratory, over the phone, he is in favor of continuing immunization with both the Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines, while investigating the very rare episodes of thrombosis that have occurred after punctures.
What occurred to you when you saw thrombosis being investigated after vaccination with Janssen?
That you had to find out what was going on.
It is necessary to investigate because it cannot be a coincidence a repetition with two similar vaccines that produces thrombi with low platelets that are very infrequent.
"The best vaccine is the one that reaches my arm first"
What is the best vaccine against covid-19?
Which one protects the most?
Are you overacting with the stoppage of this vaccine?
It is clearly overreacting.
Everybody is looking at everybody.
There is no authority, neither from the World Health Organization, nor from the EMA [European Medicines Agency], nor from any government that wants to take risks and that can tell you: “You said you could use those vaccines ”.
The precautionary principle is fine and must be used, but it is a balance, it cannot lead to immobility.
What could be behind these thrombi?
Of the six patients [who have suffered thrombosis after the Janssen vaccine] it is known that they are women, between 19 and 49 years old, but not what kind of diseases they had, if they were taking medication ... that kind of thing they are very important and are unknown.
We are watching and digesting news without the full data.
When they ask me what I think, I answer that you have to look at it, but there are many fewer cases than if people were not vaccinated: the 0.6 per 100,000 who have died in the case of AstraZeneca are much less than the 220 [per 100,000] that they would die if they were not vaccinated.
If it were up to you, would the vaccination stop?
I would continue vaccinating.
It is much more dangerous not to get vaccinated.
I don't think there is enough time for a scientific explanation [to thrombi] to be found.
But as it is a rare pattern of thrombosis and has occurred in both [AstraZeneca and Janssen] in parallel with vaccination, it should be investigated to find any association with any condition or characteristic of the patients who have suffered them.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is only injected in people between the ages of 60 and 69.
Would you expand it to older people?
It is a bit the same.
It seems to give greater reactions, or a significant allergy level, to younger people.
At the moment there are enough vaccines, the biggest practical problem is that we have been left with a bag of people with a first dose and no second.
If it is not put on, it is not so serious because a single dose induces sufficient protection.
All the vaccines that are being used are directed against the same protein of the virus, the result is very similar;
then it does not have to be great difficulty in using another type of vaccine, but it is difficult for us scientists to put something that has not been previously tested.
There, I would be a supporter of prudence with good use of common sense: if the person is very afraid, they should not take the second dose.
If you don't have it, put the second AstraZeneca on, no problem.
Another type of vaccine is almost certainly not going to cause any problems, but since it has not been previously tested, it is very hard for scientists.
Also, if a person is susceptible to having an adverse reaction, it is likely that it will manifest itself with the first one, right?
Is it possible that all this uncertainty hurts all vaccines?
Without a doubt there is an excess of information.
Scientists talk and usually say reasonable things, but those who end the conversation are socialists, who do not know anything.
That confuses people.
There is an excess of visibility.
Many times it does not reflect the real danger of a drug.
There are much more dangerous and people take them with a relish that they lack to dip bread.
People ask: "What are they going to put on me?"
Well, we are going to put something on him that is going to save his life, he is not going to go to a hospital or enter an ICU.
How is the vaccine being developed in your department going?
We are going according to schedule, we want to be finishing phase III by the end of the year.
We are now finishing the preclinical phase.
We have to show that in animal models we induce protection.
Won't the clinical phase be difficult in a setting with many people already vaccinated?
We will have to look in countries in Africa, Latin America or Southeast Asia, where the virus is still circulating and there are many unvaccinated people.
With vaccines it is difficult to be late, because diseases do not end.
The epidemic ends, but the disease does not.
If the new vaccines have better conditions, whether of distribution, efficacy or side effects, they will be useful and will probably end up imposing on the first ones.
What can yours contribute?
As it is a DNA vaccine, it can withstand at room temperature for a time.
At most, you need a normal fridge.
And this can be very useful because surely we will have to be living with vaccinations for at least two or three years.
Then we will see.