The Moderna co-founder told Bloomberg News that 2022 could be the year the pandemic enters its pandemic phase.
Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Moderna Inc., said the epidemic may begin to enter an epidemic phase in 2022, but countries will need to remain vigilant as the omicron variant spreads.
While some countries are slowly starting to consider the new coronavirus as an endemic disease, such as the flu, World Health Organization officials say it’s too early to make such a decision as cases surge.
“2022 could be the year the pandemic enters the pandemic phase, but it really depends on what happens and what decisions are made around the world,” Afeyan said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Friday. Although omicron is highly contagious, “on the other hand, it has less of an impact on disease severity,” he said.
Moderna’s omicron-specific booster could enter human trials within weeks, he said, reiterating comments made by CEO Stephane Bancel earlier this week. The CEO said he expects another booster will be needed in the fall, which could include a component tailored for omicron.
“We will start testing within a few weeks,” Afeyan said Friday. “Whether we need a booster in the spring rather than the fall is a question that we have to work through with officials around the world.”
Moderna shares fell 3.3% in premarket trading in New York.
Moderna is working with Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE to develop a highly potent Covid-19 vaccine based on messenger RNA technology. Moderna said earlier this week that it had signed a vaccine purchase agreement worth $18.5 billion this year, as well as options for another $3.5 billion, including booster shots.