Moderna hopes to have a booster shot ready by fall, says CEO

Moderna hopes to have a booster shot for its two-dose Covid vaccine in the fall, CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Wednesday.

“I want to make sure Boost vaccines are available in the fall so we can protect people when we go into the next fall and winter seasons in the US,” Bancel said in an interview on Squawk Box.

Last month, the National Institutes of Health began testing a number of Moderna offerings for use as a third attempt to improve immunity protection as concerns about emerging variants grow – including the first in South Africa discovered variant also known as the B.1.351.

The Food and Drug Administration’s approach to approving modified Covid vaccines is similar to that of annual flu vaccines, meaning they could be approved for emergency use without lengthy clinical trials.

Massachusetts-based Moderna hopes to submit data to regulators within months, Bancel added. “Our goal is to work really hard to get this ready before fall,” he repeated.

Bancel’s comments came a day after Moderna announced that its existing vaccine was more than 90% effective against Covid for up to six months after the second dose. It was more than 95% effective against serious illnesses over the same period, the biotech company said in its update, which could bring it closer to full regulatory approval.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 453 cases with variant B.1.351 have currently been reported. This variant has particularly affected public health experts. It has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of existing Covid vaccines, including Moderna.

Bancel on Wednesday reiterated his belief that annual Covid vaccine boosters will be the order of the day in the future, saying the coronavirus is “not going away” and “not leaving the planet”.

“I expect we’ll see a lot of variants in the next year. However, as more people get vaccinated or infected naturally, the pace of the variant will slow down and the virus will stabilize like you see with flu,” said Bancel.

Finally, he added, Moderna is hoping to have some sort of two-in-one vaccine that will protect against seasonal flu and Covid. The company announced its intention to manufacture a flu vaccine in September.

“What we’re actually trying to do at Moderna is to get a flu vaccine at the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccine with our Covid vaccine so all you have to do is get a boost at your local CVS store … every year, that would protect you from the variant of concerns about Covid and the seasonal strain of flu, “Bancel said.

“We believe we can get a highly effective flu vaccine,” he added. Current flu vaccines are between 40% and 60% effective every year, according to the CDC.

Bancel also incriminated U.S. regulators, who recommended Tuesday that states discontinue use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid vaccine after concerns about rare but severe blood clots among recipients emerged.

The move shows that “the FDA will not hesitate to be very careful to analyze the data, take the time necessary to do so and protect the safety of the American people,” he said, arguing that the way How regulators deal with the J&J situation would decrease the vaccine hesitation, not increase it.

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