Moderna president Dr Stephen Hoge says the global fight against Covid will continue ‘for the next couple of years’ as the virus continues to mutate

  • Dr Stephen Hoge said Covid will keep evolving as long as it is infecting people
  • The pharma boss said we will need to keep testing vaccines against new strains
  • Moderna said its shots could offer protection against the latest variants

The president of Moderna has warned the global fight against Covid could last for a number of years.

Dr Stephen Hoge said during a conference call this week that the virus will continue to mutate and create new strains despite vaccines being rolled out.

It comes as Moderna, which produces one of the vaccines approved in many countries around the world including the US and the UK, said its shots could offer protection against the prominent British and South African Covid strains.

The president of Moderna Dr Stephen Hoge has warned the global fight against Covid could last for a number of years

Dr Hoge said, according to CNN: ‘The virus is going to evolve as long as it’s infecting.

‘The key thing we need to do is to stop it from infecting. We need to break that transmission and, secondly, stop those infections from lasting a very long time.’

He said this process will continue for years as scientists continue to analyze the changing virus.

He added: ‘I think as we look at the efficacy of any of these vaccines, we should hope and assume that they’re going to work across them, but we need to prove that case, time and time again.

‘Now, usually, probably just with measuring the vaccine’s ability to provide neutralizing antibodies in the blood, but in some cases over time we may need to go look at whether or not we’re actually protecting in the real world against some of these new strains. 

‘Until we’ve got this thing sort of fully suppressed and in control, and people are broadly vaccinated or seropositive and protected against it, it’s going to be an ongoing battle for the next couple of years.’

Moderna said its shots could offer protection against the prominent British and South African Covid strains

His comments come as Moderna announced it had found no reduction in the antibody response against the Covid variant found in Britain. 

Against the South African variant, it found a reduced response but still believed its two-dose regimen would provide protection.

The emergence of new variants in Britain, South Africa and Brazil has created some concern that mutations in the virus may make vaccines less effective.

Moderna said it is looking at whether a booster shot – either of its existing vaccine or of a new shot designed to protect against the South African variant – could be made available in future if evidence were to emerge that protection declined.

‘The virus isn’t going to stand still,’ Moderna President Stephen Hoge said on a conference call. 

‘It’s important that we remain vigilant and develop potential tools and countermeasures that would allow us to continue to beat back the pandemic.’

Moderna said it expects its current vaccine will remain protective for at least a year after completing the two-dose course. It does not expect to test a third dose until at least six months after that course is finished. 

Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in a research note it was encouraging that the antibody response of the Moderna vaccine to the South African variant was still above the levels that provide protection.

Yee also said the speed with which Moderna was able to design a new booster shot candidate was proof of the flexibility of the new mRNA technology upon which it is based.

Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel, said he was only mildly concerned the vaccine would not be protective against the variants.

A map based on genome sequences shows have different strains of coronavirus have spread around the world, with at least eight strains being tracked

‘It is a little worrisome that you see a lesser neutralizing antibody response, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unprotected,’ he said, noting that even these lower levels may still be enough to protect against serious infections.

‘The goal of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you out of the morgue. If you get a symptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection that is not a burden to the healthcare system,’ Offit said.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have also said tests showed their vaccine is effective against the variant found in Britain, but have not yet disclosed results against the South African variant.

That variant first found in Britain has caused a massive surge in cases there and has also been found in more than a dozen U.S. states. US public health officials expect it to be the dominant variant in the United States within six weeks.  

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