: Moderna CEO expects a second COVID booster will be needed later this year

United States

Moderna Inc.’s CEO expects fully vaccinated people to need an additional COVID-19 booster shot later this year, as the efficacy of the first booster wanes over time.

Speaking Thursday at a virtual conference of health-care CEOs held by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS, -0.43%, Moderna MRNA, +0.39% Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said the current booster should be enough to protect people through the winter omicron surge.

However, “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 gonna hold great,” Bancel said in reference to the booster’s strength. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.”

“We have been saying that we believe first this virus is not going away,” Bancel said. “We’re going to have to live with it.”

Bancel said the United Kingdom and South Korea have already submitted orders for a second round of boosters.

Studies have suggested that the omicron variant is more adept at breaching the defenses of vaccines and boosters. Bancel said Moderna is working on a vaccine tailored against omicron, but that it would likely not be ready until after the winter surge.

He also said the current surge could actually be beneficial in the long run, allowing much of public life to resume if enough of the population gets natural resistance from catching the virus.

Better times seem like a long ways off, though. COVID-related hospitalizations in the U.S. have jumped nearly 60% over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times tracker, while the seven-day average for cases rose for the 24th straight day to a record 585,535 on Wednesday — up 247% in the past two weeks. 

Moderna said earlier this week it shipped 800 million COVID vaccine doses around the world in 2021. Shares inched up Thursday, but have sunk 21% over the past month, and 30% over the past three months, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, -0.10% gains of 0.6% and 7%, respectively, over those periods.