Moderna hopes to have a booster shot for its two-dose Covid vaccine available in the fall, CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Wednesday.
“I want to make sure there are boost vaccines available in the fall so that we protect people as we go into the next fall and winter season in the U.S.,” Bancel said in an interview on “Squawk Box.”
Last month, the National Institutes of Health began testing a variety of offerings from Moderna to use as a third shot designed to boost immunity protection as concern grows about emerging variants — including the one first discovered in South Africa, also known as the B.1.351 variant.
The Food and Drug Administration’s approach to authorizing modified Covid vaccines is similar to that of annual flu vaccines, meaning they could be cleared for emergency use without lengthy clinical trials.
Massachusetts-based Moderna hopes to submit data to regulators within a few months, Bancel added. “Our goal is to work really hard to get this ready before the fall,” he reiterated.
Bancel’s comments came one day after Moderna announced its existing vaccine was over 90% effective at protecting against Covid up to six months after the second dose. It was more than 95% effective against severe disease within that same time frame, the biotech firm said in its update, which could bring it closer to obtaining full regulatory approval.
There are currently 453 reported cases involving the B.1.351 variant, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That variant, in particular, has concerned public health experts. It’s been shown to reduce the effectiveness of existing Covid vaccines, including from Moderna.
Bancel on Wednesday reiterated his belief that annual Covid vaccine boosters will be commonplace going forward, saying the coronavirus “is not going away” and it’s “not leaving the planet.”
“I anticipate in the next year or so, we’re going to see a lot of variants. But as more and more people get vaccinated or naturally infected, the pace of the variant is going to slow down and the virus is going to stabilize like you see with flu,” Bancel said.
Eventually, he added, Moderna hopes to be able to have a two-in-one vaccine of sorts that protects against seasonal flu and Covid. The company in September announced its intentions to make a flu vaccine.
“What we’re trying to do at Moderna actually is try to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccine to our Covid vaccine so you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store … every year that would protect you to the variant of concern against Covid and the seasonal flu strain,” Bancel said.
“We believe we can get to a high efficacy flu vaccine,” he added. On any given year, current flu vaccines are roughly between 40%-60% effective, according to the CDC.
Bancel also weighed in on U.S. regulators recommending Tuesday that states pause using Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid vaccine after concerns arose around rare but severe blood clots developing in recipients.
The move shows “the FDA will not hesitate to be very cautious to analyze the data, to take the time required to do so, to protect the safety of the American people,” he said, arguing that the way regulators are handling the J&J situation would reduce vaccine hesitancy not increase it.