Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel recently said that we may be entering the final stages of the COVID pandemic.
“I think that is a reasonable scenario,” he said in a taped segment when asked if the pandemic in starting to wind down.
“There’s an 80% chance that as omicron evolves or SarsCov-2 virus evolves, we are going to see less and less virulent viruses,” he added, as well. “But there’s a 20% scenario where we see the next mutation, which is more virulent than omicron.”
“I think we got lucky as a world that omicron was not very virulent. But still are we see thousands of people dying every day around the planet because of omicron,” he said.
The World Health Organization reports over 15 million new cases reported in the last seven days worldwide, including 73, 162 deaths in the same time frame.
Health officials have said, though, that the omicron could be fading. Experts also agree that while the omicron variant acted more contagious than its predecessor delta, it was less destructive in terms of symptoms.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, said in January that the world shouldn’t assume that the pandemic is reaching its endgame. He doubled down on the narrative, claiming that the pandemic is “nowhere near over” while cautioning that more variants would rise across the globe.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci vaguely echoed those sentiments last month, describing omicron as the end of the pandemic as an “open question.”
Moderna wants to expand into more forms of COVID therapy, in more places, too
As for Moderna, the pharmaceutical giant said it began testing omicron-specific booster shots in January via clinical trial. The company hopes to administer specific boosters for specific needs in the coming months. The first participant in the trial already received a dose of the omicron-specific booster shot, according to the company. Moderna expects to enroll about 600 adult participants ages 18 and over to the study.
Moderna also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to expand aggressively into Asia.
“The reason we want to expand in Asia is the importance of that region,” Bancel continued.
“The fact that this virus is not going away, as we’ve been saying since almost the beginning — this virus is going to stay with humans forever, like flu and we’d have to live with it.”
He said that his company intends to open new subsidiaries in Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. In a statement, the company said it wanted to position itself in Asia to better distribute COVID vaccines. It also wants to better distribute “future mRNA vaccines and therapeutics.”
Bancel said the presence in Asia will help create better working relationships with local authorities. In hong Kong, for instance, Moderna’s mRNA vaccine did not meet COVID authorization protocols. Bancel said the company is working with local governments to approve the therapy amidst a fresh spike in COVID cases.