Efficacy of boosters likely to decline; may need fourth shot: Moderna CEO

Omicron could accelerate the transition from the acute crisis caused by the coronavirus to an endemic phase, Stephane Bancel says

People who received their boosters in the autumn of 2021 will likely have enough protection to get them through the winter, Moderna said | File Photo

Efficacy of boosters will likely decline over time, and people may need a fourth shot to increase their protection against COVID-19, Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said on Thursday.

People who received their boosters in the autumn of 2021 will likely have enough protection to get them through the winter, Bancel said.

However, he said the efficacy of boosters will probably decline over the course of several months, similar to what happened with the first two doses. The Moderna chief was interviewed by Goldman Sachs during the investment bank’s health-care CEO conference.

“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, referring to the strength of the booster shots.

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The highly contagious Omicron variant has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases worldwide. In the US, the seven-day average is now more than 574,000 new cases daily, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Bancel said governments, including the UK, are already ordering the doses in preparation. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward,” he said, adding that people who are older or have underlying conditions might need annual boosters for years to come.

“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 Omicron could accelerate the transition from the acute crisis caused by the coronavirus to an endemic phase where enough people have immune protection.

However, he also cautioned against predictions, noting that Omicron, with its dozens of mutations, took most of the scientific community by surprise.

“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,” he said. “That’s a piece that we’ll have to just be cautious about.”

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