Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel said it’s “reasonable” to assume that we may be approaching the final stages of the pandemic.
“I think that is a reasonable scenario,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” when asked about views that the Covid-19 pandemic may now be in its final stages.
“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 said Wednesday.
He also said there’s another “20% scenario where we see a 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.
According to the World Health Organization, there were 15.47 million new cases reported in the last 7 days worldwide, and 73,162 deaths in the same period.
Some studies have shown that while the omicron variant appears more contagious, it generally doesn’t make people as sick as delta does.
Health officials have also highlighted that omicron’s threat may be fading.
But the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in January that it’s dangerous to assume the pandemic is approaching its endgame. In fact, he said it’s “nowhere near over,” and cautioned that new variants will likely emerge as omicron spreads rapidly across the globe.
In January, Moderna announced it started a clinical trial to study the safety and efficacy of a booster shot that specifically targets the omicron variant.
The first participant in the trial has already received a dose of the omicron-specific booster shot, according to the company. It expects to enroll about 600 adult participants ages 18 and over to be split between two groups.
Asia expansion plans
Separately, Moderna announced plans to expand its presence in Asia.
“The reason we want to expand in Asia is the importance of that region,” he told CNBC.
“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.”
Bancel said he finds Asia’s economic expansion “very exciting,” and that the company intends to open new subsidiaries in Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The expansion comes as Moderna “continues to scale up the manufacturing and distribution of its COVID-19 vaccine and future mRNA vaccines and therapeutics,” the U.S. biotech firm said in a statement.
Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccine is currently not available in Hong Kong, which recently saw a surge in Covid cases. Bancel said the company is currently “working with authorities to get it authorized.”