Omicron: Moderna CEO fears “significant drop” in vaccine effectiveness

Posted on Nov 30, 2021 9:26 AMUpdated Nov 30, 2021, 10:08 AM

The boss of Moderna is pessimistic. In an interview with the “Financial Times”, Stéphane Bancel indeed believes that there is very little chance that the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid is “at the same level” against the Omicron variant as against the Delta variant. “I think it’s going to be a significant drop,” he says. Pending precise data, which should be available over the next two weeks, however, it is not yet able to quantify this drop in effectiveness.

Scientists particularly question the ability of current vaccines to fight against the Omicron variant because of the mutations it presents. According to Stéphane Bancel, 32 of the 50 mutations of the variant are in fact located on the Spike protein of the virus, on which current vaccines are based to strengthen the immune system of the human body.

“The calculations are not good”

Pfizer and Moderna have both started work to develop a version of their vaccine that is effective against the Omicron variant. However, setting up large-scale production of this new vaccine could take “several months”, underlines Stéphane Bancel to the British daily. At the same time, moving the entire production capacity of Moderna to this new vaccine seems “risky” to him, while other variants are still in circulation.

“Moderna like Pfizer won’t be able to get a billion doses next week. The calculations are not good “, he warns, before estimating this attainable objective” for this summer “. In the meantime, he suggests giving stronger booster doses to the elderly or vulnerable.

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Stéphane Bancel has also disagreed with those who accuse vaccine manufacturers of not doing enough to support dose distribution in developing countries such as South Africa, where only a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated. . “It was mainly a political decision of the rich countries. In the United States, we were told that we had no choice but to give 60% of our production to the United States government. It was not a decision of Moderna, it was a decision of the American government, ”he stressed.

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