Moderna CEO Just Predicted When the Pandemic Will Be Over for Good
The executive said that a ramping up of vaccine production will help cover the world's population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended everyday life for the past 18 months with limits on where we can go, changes to how we perform day-to-day tasks and errands, and an added sense of overall uncertainty over our own health and safety. For many, this has caused a feeling of confusion or hopelessness about when we might finally be able to put the virus behind us. But recently, Stéphane Bancel, CEO of biotechnology company and vaccine manufacturer Moderna, predicted that the pandemic might be over for good before too long. Read on to see how soon he believes life could return to normal.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel believes the pandemic will be over for good "in a year."
After a spring of progress was wiped out by summer surges brought on by the Delta variant, some experts have altered their original timelines as to when COVID-19 might finally be under control. But in a Sept. 23 interview with Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Bancel said that significant changes in production capabilities meant that the lag in global vaccine equity could be addressed much more quickly in the coming months, Reuters reports. When asked about how long it would take for the pandemic to end and for life to return to normal as a result of this development, he replied: "As of today, in a year, I assume."
Bancel believes COVID could end up "in a situation similar to that of the flu."
Bancel explained that even with vaccine hesitancy in some areas, the pandemic would likely slow down as more of the public gets exposed to the virus. "Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious. In this way, we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu," he predicted.
But while natural immunity might help slow down the spread of COVID eventually, the biotechnology CEO advised those who had access to shots to get them for their own safety. "You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don't do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital," he cautioned.
Vaccines will soon be available for everyone around the world thanks to increased production.
During the interview, Bancel also touched on how changes to how the vaccine is made would help address the issue of global vaccine equity. "If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this earth can be vaccinated. Boosters should also be possible to the extent required," he said.
Such increased access could have a profound effect on the global vaccination effort. According to Our World In Data, 60 percent of those in high-income and upper-middle-income countries have received at least one dose of vaccine. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of residents in lower-middle-income and 2.1 percent of lower-income countries have had their first shot, Forbes reports.
Bancel explained that the current booster up for approval would maintain the same formula as the original shots but use half the dosage, freeing up enough supplies to make "3 billion doses available worldwide for the coming year instead of just 2 billion," he told the paper. But Bancel also pointed out that Moderna was looking towards the future, saying a Delta-optimized booster was also in the works that will likely be the basis for additional shots in 2022, as well as one for "Delta plus Beta, the next mutation that scientists believe is likely."
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A recent projection also predicted that the pandemic would be "under control" in the coming months.
Bancel isn't alone in his prediction that the pandemic could be reaching its end. In their latest set of projections, researchers at the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub used mathematical models from nine different research groups to develop a set of four forecasts for the next six months. The model that the researchers plotted as the most likely scenario, involving vaccinations for children and sparing the public yet another easily-spread variant, showed a steady decline throughout the winter without any significant spike, NPR reports. After assessing the model, William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cautioned that while "there could be a number of bumps in the road," he was cautiously optimistic that the Delta surge was in its last phase and that the pandemic would be "comparatively under control by March."
According to the projection, current numbers should continue to fall through the fall and winter. The model expects the rate seen on Sept. 11 of 145,097 new cases a day to drop down to 9,055 by Mar. 12. COVID-related deaths are expected to follow suit, plunging from a rate of 1,626 per day to 59 on the same date.
"Any of us who have been following this closely, given what happened with Delta, are going to be really cautious about too much optimism," Justin Lessler, PhD, an epidemiologist from the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub, told NPR. "But I do think that the trajectory is towards improvement for most of the country," he says.