Moderna Inc. Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said another round of vaccine boosters against Covid-19 will probably be needed this fall, even if immunity to the rapidly spreading omicron variant becomes widespread.
Highly infectious omicron may move the world rapidly to an endemic phase where most people are exposed to the virus, the vaccine CEO said at a presentation late Thursday at a health-care conference hosted by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Yet it’s not yet clear how long protection from the current round of boosters will hold before fading, nor can scientists yet predict the potential impact of future mutations on the severity of the disease, he said.
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“Assuming omicron is an acceleration to the endemic phase, I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ‘22 and forward,” Bancel said in a presentation. However, boosters given this month or in the last quarter of 2021 will probably hold until spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere, he said.
Moderna and competitors Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have an interest in nudging policymakers toward regular Covid shots. Countries around the world have rushed forward with booster drives in an attempt to slow omicron’s spread, even as it remains unclear how long the boosters will protect against infection. Israel has started offering a fourth dose of the vaccine to people aged 60 and over as the country grapples with record numbers of new cases.
Early data out of the U.K. indicated last month that protection from a booster against infection with omicron wanes more rapidly than had been seen against the delta variant. However, if a pattern previously seen with delta holds, the vaccines will continue to keep people from becoming severely ill.
Moderna is continuing to work on an omicron-specific shot and expects to start human trials very soon, Bancel said. The company will also continue to look at shots tailored for a combination of different strains, he said.
The shares rose 1.2% at 9:39 a.m. in New York.
(Updates shares in final paragraph.)