Moderna CEO Says This Is How Often You'll Need A COVID Vaccine

The pharmaceutical executive believes COVID and the flu will be handled with the same improved shot.

As more people across the U.S. and worldwide receive the COVID vaccine for the first time, many are feeling hopeful that the coming months will finally see the global pandemic brought to an end. But the rise of variants of the virus that can make the current vaccines less effective has forced experts to question of how often we'll need to be immunized against the novel coronavirus in the future, including executives at the companies who developed them. And according to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, we'll likely need to get a COVID vaccine booster annually—but it may be part of another yearly medical ritual, he recently told Forbes. Read on to see how he thinks the future will look for immunizations, and for more on what you should avoid after getting your shots, check out Don't Do This Until a Month After Your COVID Vaccine, Experts Warn.

The Moderna CEO thinks COVID vaccinations may become an annual tradition.


As the head of one of the first companies to successfully develop a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine, Bancel discussed the rise of new variants of the virus and how the medical community will handle the virus in the future. He admitted that an annual or semi-annual shot would likely be used to keep it at bay, not unlike current practices for other diseases.

"You might end up with a thing like the flu where every year, every two years, you need a boost," Bancel told Forbes. He also said that Moderna had already submitted a newer version of the vaccine focusing on the South African B.1.351 variant to the National Institutes of Health for testing and that yet another version that can be stored at standard refrigerator temperature has already started clinical trials.

Bancel believes Moderna can also improve the annual flu shot.

Vials of influenza vaccine. ottles with a syringe on black table and stainless steel background.

But the executive has also recently made it known that the annual vaccination process might be a little different thanks to newly developed products. During an appearance at The Wall Street Journal Health Forum on March 23, Bancel said that Moderna was currently working on a single annual shot that would not only target both the flu and COVID, but also bring flu vaccine efficacy up from the current range of 30 to 60 percent to 90 percent. Still, he admitted the official approval process might take years, unlike the quick turnaround granted to the current vaccine by regulators.

"Today, the vaccines we have for seasonal flu are OK in a great year, and they are pretty bad in a bad year, in terms of efficacy," he said. "It is not impossible that in a couple of years we should have the product I just talked about—a high efficacy seasonal flu vaccine and a COVID vaccine—for you at your pharmacy on an annual basis." And for more on what you still shouldn't do after getting your shots, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said to Avoid This One Place, Even If You're Vaccinated.

Bancel has previously said he doesn't believe that COVID is going away in the future.

Vaccine record

This isn't the first time the pharmaceutical CEO has admitted he thinks COVID will still be a foe for some time to come. In January, CNBC reported that during a panel discussion at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, Bancel predicted what he believed the future of COVID would be post-pandemic.

"SARS-CoV-2 is not going away," Bancel said, suggesting that the virus would become "endemic" and circulate permanently at low levels while rarely causing severe illness. "We are going to live with this virus, we think, forever."

Pfizer's CEO has also predicted that people will need a yearly COVID shot.


Bancel is also not alone in his beliefs that COVID shots might become a yearly event. During an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt in February, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla discussed the ongoing trials for a potential third dose of his company's vaccine to make it more effective against mutated versions of the virus, including the highly transmissible South African variant. He pointed out that such mutations should be expected of any virus and they're why annual shots are required for other diseases.

"Every year, you need to go to get your flu vaccine," Bourla said. "It's going to be the same with COVID. In a year, you will have to go and get your annual shot for COVID to be protected." And for more immunization information, check out The Pfizer Vaccine May Be Less Effective If You Have This Common Condition.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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