A fourth shot will be needed as the power of the booster wanes, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel stated on Thursday while addressing a Goldman Sachs healthcare conference.
His comments were the first such definitive statement by Moderna regarding the need for a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccines.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Cambridge, Massachusetts pharma firm says that he believes the public will need to get their next booster sometime in the Fall of 2022.
Bancel said that his company is working on a booster shot that is targeted toward fighting the omicron variant of COVID-19, but it will likely not be available anything in the next couple of months.
“I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward,” Bancel told conference attendees.
Further buttressing the need for the fourth shot, a study out of Israel indicated that a fourth inoculation boosts antibodies a multiple of five times, according to an announcement made by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday. That country has already started inoculating immunocompromised citizens with a fourth shot.
Meanwhile, Moderna announced that according to its third quarter earnings report that commercial booster sales could reach $2 billion in the United States this year alone.
Speaking about the tendency of the shots to wane in strength over time, Bancel stated
“I would expect that it’s not going to hold great,” during the Goldman Sachs interview.
In addition, any random mutation that crops up could change the course of the pandemic yet again, he cautioned.
But for now, he maintained, all those who have received their booster shots in the Fall of 2021 should be protected through the Winter as new infections of all kinds typically surge as people stay indoors more at this time of year..
“I will be surprised when we get that data in the coming weeks that it’s holding nicely over time — I would expect that it’s not going to hold great,” Bancel said in reference to the shots’ waning in efficacy.
The Omicron variant is continuing to spread like wildfire across the world; the seven-day average in the US is now more than 574,000 new cases every day, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
As a result, national health authorities around the globe are taking action, including the UK, South Korea, and others, according to Bancel, as they look toward yet another campaign in the Autumn of this year.
“I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward,” Bancel stated, adding that this who suffer from underlying health conditions or who are in the older age cohorts may need annual booster shots every year for the foreseeable future.
“We have been saying that we believe first this virus is not going away,” the Moderna CEO cautioned, before adding “We’re going to have to live with it.”
Last month, Bancel’s firm published preliminary data indicating that its 50-microgram booster shot increased the antibodies that fight omicron by a multiple of 37 times, while a booster with twice that dose increased the same antibodies by a multiple of 83.
People are lining up all over the world to receive their boosters as the Omicron variant continues to rear its head globally, causing what is widely believed to be a milder form of the disease, but one that is much more contagious than any other previous variant of the coronavirus.
Researchers in the UK discovered recently that the two-dose vaccine series from both Moderna and Pfizer are only approximately 10% effective in fighting off omicron 20 weeks after subjects received their second dose.
However, protection increased exponentially after booster shots were administered, according to the same same study, which was sponsored by the U.K. Health Security. The trial showed that boosters were up to 75% stronger in preventing infections just two weeks after subjects had been inoculated.
Even so, the power of the boosters still weakened over the span of approximately four weeks, the study found, with researchers citing that they were between 55% to 70% effective at fighting off infections from weeks five to nine after the inoculations occurred. This efficacy waned somewhat later on, however, to 40% to 50% effectiveness when measured ten weeks after subjects received the shot.
In December, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the press that we will most likely need a fourth dose of the vaccine adding that may be sooner rather than later since the contagiousness of omicron was so much greater than any previous permutation of the coronavirus.
Bancel stated during his Goldman Sachs appearance that the prevalence of omicron all over the globe might speed up the transition of the pandemic from the acute phase to an endemic one in which a significant amount of people acquire immunity, leading to much less disruption of social and economic activities.
Still, he admitted that there have been many twists and turns during the pandemic, taking the world on a roller coaster for the last two years as variant after variant emerged across the globe.
“What is totally impossible to predict, is there a new mutation coming in a day, a week, three months that is worse in terms of severity of disease,” the CEO stated, before adding “That’s a piece that we’ll have to just be cautious about.”
But so far, Bancel noted, the data does show that omicron is less severe than all other previously identified strains of the coronavirus.