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Moderna CEO predicts pandemic could be over in a year

Stephane Bancel says COVID shots will be okayed for infants and there will be enough doses by mid-2022 to inoculate everyone worldwide; thinks situation could come to resemble flu

Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, speaks to the media after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker toured the Moderna facility, on May 12, 2021, in Norwood, Massachusetts. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)
Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, speaks to the media after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker toured the Moderna facility, on May 12, 2021, in Norwood, Massachusetts. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

The head of vaccine-maker Moderna said on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic could be over in just a year, also predicting that it could become similar to the current situation with the flu.

“If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this earth can be vaccinated. Boosters should also be possible to the extent required,” Stephane Bancel told Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, according to a translation by the Reuters news agency.

“Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious,” Bancel said. “In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter, or you don’t do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital.”

Asked when that could cause a return to normal, he said: “As of today, in a year, I assume.”

Bancel said that he expects vaccines to be approved soon even for infants.

He also expected more nations to approve booster shots, saying that they “undoubtedly” will be needed.

Israel was the first country to offer booster shots for all citizens aged 12 and up. However, the country has not been using Moderna’s vaccine, instead administering the inoculation developed by competitor Pfizer.

In this March 29, 2021 file photo, a worker readies syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Metairie, LA. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Research is increasingly showing that Moderna’s vaccine offers more long-lasting protection against hospitalization than Pfizer’s.

A study released by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week showed that Pfizer’s protection fell from 91 percent between 14 and 120 days after vaccination to 77% more than 120 days after vaccination. By contrast, Moderna fell from 93% to 92% when comparing the same two periods.

The reasons for the difference aren’t fully clear, but it could be because Moderna’s dosage levels are higher — 100 micrograms against 30.

It could also be tied to the dosing interval, with the Pfizer shots given three weeks apart versus Moderna, which are given four weeks apart.

Moderna’s booster shots contained just half the volume — 50 micrograms — as compared to the original doses.

Bancel said in the interview that Moderna’s current boosters have otherwise remained the same because there has been time to complete trials for a vaccine adapted specifically to counter the ultra-infectious Delta variant.

“We are currently testing Delta-optimized variants in clinical trials,” he said. “They will form the basis for the booster vaccination for 2022. We are also trying out Delta plus Beta, the next mutation that scientists believe is likely.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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