Moderna President Believes There Will Be 'Chronic' Need for COVID Booster Shot

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge believes there will be a "chronic" need for a COVID-19 booster shot in the future, he told the Associated Press during a Q&A. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is a backbone of the U.S. COVID vaccination campaign, and Hoge believes a third shot for immunity maintenance would be "prudent to plan for."

"None of us want to be in a situation next November where we have to go into another lockdown. We've been updating our vaccine to make sure it boosts you back up. That's the variant booster that we're going to have available in the fourth quarter," he told the Associated Press.

Moderna began working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine in the early days of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for emergency use in December 2020, and 130 million doses have been administered since.

The company is currently testing possible booster shots and vaccines for younger people, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Moderna President Stephen Hoge
This 2019 photo provided by Moderna shows the company's President Stephen Hoge in his office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In a May interview, Hoge said the company is working on developing COVID-19 vaccine booster shots while also trying to harness the genetic code technology it helped pioneer to fight other diseases. Moderna via AP

The Associated Press spoke with company president Dr. Stephen Hoge, who oversees Moderna's research.

How long will it take to develop new vaccines to fight variants?

Hoge: With the first version of the vaccine, we did it in about five months, but we had to do the large clinical trials. We won't have to do that now. For a booster targeting variants, we could do it in about three months.

What makes messenger RNA so useful?

Hoge: Messenger RNA is really just an instruction manual. It's no longer a medicine that somebody made. It's instructions to your body. We can put anything we want into that manual to tell it what to make, such as the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus. If you want to change a paragraph, you just cut and paste.

What else can MRNA treat?

Hoge: There's no disease where we shouldn't be able to eventually have a medicine.

What are you working on?

Hoge: (Vaccines for) viruses like influenza and cytomegaloviruses and other viruses that are hard to go after, like HIV. Half of our pipeline is in therapeutics. We have programs in cancer and heart disease.

What will Moderna be doing 10 years from now?

Hoge: We'll be focused on cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases. In cancer, we have a couple programs in mid-stage studies. We are trying to prevent recurrence of melanoma. We're partnering with AstraZeneca to develop messenger RNA that could be injected into people undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, to grow heart cells. If we can do that, that would be transformative.

Moderna Vaccines
Syringes and needles filled with the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for COVID-19 are seen before being administered to employees of Japan's Mori Building Company, a property management firm, during the company's workplace vaccination campaign in Tokyo on June 21. Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images