Story at a glance
- The CEO of vaccine maker Moderna said he believes a fourth COVID-19 shot will be necessary by the fall season this year.
- He cited waning vaccine efficacy as the need for a fourth shot.
- Currently, only 35 percent of the U.S. population has gotten their booster shot.
As the U.S. rolls out boosters in an effort to get people a third vaccine shot, one of the country’s biggest vaccine makers says a fourth shot may be necessary later this year.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel spoke during a health care conference this week, saying he believed the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines will decrease over time and eventually people will need a fourth shot to boost up their protection against the virus.
Just as scientists discovered vaccines’ efficacy against COVID-19 waned over time and therefore recommended a booster shot, Bancel believes an additional booster will be necessary as efficacy declines on the third.
When describing the waning efficacy of booster shots, Bancel said, “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,” according to CNBC.
A third booster shot has been shown to generate a strong immune response for those who have already received a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. A U.K. study found that antibody levels increased nearly 25 times higher in people who received a Pfizer booster shot after getting two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Those who got Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine had antibody levels eight times higher after taking Pfizer’s booster shot.
Moderna’s booster shot fared even better, with the U.K. study finding antibody levels in those vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine jumped by 32 times.
Booster shots are playing a bigger role now more than ever as the omicron variant takes hold of the world, causing a huge surge in COVID-19 cases. Pfizer announced in early December that a third booster shot increased antibodies by 25-fold compared to only two doses of its COVID-19 vaccine against the omicron variant.
Moderna shared similar news, saying testing results found its booster dose increased antibodies by roughly 37-fold, according to The New York Times.
Despite the data indicating booster shots work, only about 35 percent of the U.S. population has received one. Currently in the U.S., anyone 18-years and older who received Moderna’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine is eligible for a booster. Everyone 12-years and older who received Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine can get a booster shot.
However, those increased antibody responses are likely to eventually fade, with Bancel saying, “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.”
He added that other foreign governments like the U.K. and South Korea have already begun ordering additional doses in preparation for a potential need for a fourth vaccine shot.
Bancel also reiterated a common theory among scientists that the COVID-19 virus isn’t going to completely disappear, but rather will become endemic. That’s a state where people will have gained enough immunity to the virus through vaccinations and natural infection that there will be significantly less transmission, though COVID-19 wouldn’t be completely eradicated.
“We have been saying that we believe first this virus is not going away. We’re going to have to live with it,” said Bancel, according to CNBC.
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