Moderna CEO Says Last Stages of COVID-19 Pandemic Are in Sight

Moderna CEO Says Last Stages of COVID-19 Pandemic Are in Sight
The CEO of Moderna Stéphane Bancel is seen in this video frame grab as he speaks during an interview with AFP on Nov. 17, 2020. (Ivan Couronne/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Moderna chief executive officer Stephane Bancel has said he feels it’s "a reasonable scenario" to assume that the last stages of the COVID-19 pandemic are in sight.

In an interview with CNBC’s "Squawk Box Asia" on Wednesday, the CEO of the American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company reiterated comments made by other health professionals, including World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director of Europe, Hans Kluge, who has suggested Europe could be heading for a quiet COVID-19 period.

"I think that is a reasonable scenario," Bancel said. "There’s an 80 percent chance that as Omicron evolves or SarsCov-2 virus evolves, we are going to see less and less virulent viruses."

"We still need, especially for the older ones, I think people above 50 to be vaccinated, people at high risk ... will need to be boosted once a year."

He also said there’s another "20 percent 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.

However, he added, "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."

In January Kluge, told Agence France-Presse that the highly infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 could infect 60 percent of Europeans by March before tapering off for some time. 

He credited the tapering to global immunity and increased vaccinations, among other things.

"So we anticipate that there will be a quiet period before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back," he said.

However, Kluge said European nations need to continue with their vaccination and boosting campaigns to preserve immunity and to maintain surveillance of strains to detect new variants of COVID-19.

In the United States, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said in January that he's confident that much of the country will reach a peak in Omicron coronavirus variant infections within the middle of February.

If a pattern of peak cases followed by a downwards trend in cases continues, he said, the United States will start to see a similar "turnaround throughout the entire country."

Fauci on Feb. 9 also hinted that much of the virus-related restrictions put in place could be lifted, and will "soon be a thing of the past."
A handful of Democrats in the United States have said that Americans will have to learn how to live in a world with COVID-19, and have begun easing certain restrictions, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy who has eased mask mandates for schools in the state.
A recent spike in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant has declined across much of the United States in recent days. Hospitalizations from the virus have also fallen significantly over the past two weeks or so, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden on Feb. 11 said that the decision by a number of states to lift masking mandates is "probably premature" but noted that it’s a "tough call."

Elsewhere on Feb. 15, Moderna announced plans to expand its presence in Asia.

The company said it will open new subsidiaries in Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong as it continues to scale up the manufacturing and distribution of its COVID-19 vaccine and future mRNA vaccines and therapeutics.

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