Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should provide immunity from disease for at least one year after vaccination, the company announced at a conference Monday, Reuters reports, adding that the company is “on track” to deliver at least 600 million doses of the vaccine in 2021.
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference Monday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said immunity from the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, one of just two approved for emergency use in the U.S., should last for at least a year.
While clinical trials showed the vaccine to be highly effective at preventing disease, they do not show precisely how long this immunity will last and it is possible that a new coronavirus vaccine will be required on a regular basis to boost the immune system after this year long period has passed.
New variants of the virus can also learn to evade the protection offered by vaccines, and Moderna said it is well placed to respond to new variants of coronavirus, such as highly infectious variants currently spreading through South Africa and the U.K., owing to the adaptable mRNA technology used to develop the vaccine.
Bancel’s comments echo earlier statements from manufacturers at Pfizer and BioNTech, who point out the relative ease with which the vaccine’s core components can be edited to adapt to new variants.
In addition to discussing the duration of the Moderna vaccine’s immunity, Bancel said the company is “very comfortable” with its track record at producing vaccines, adding that it is on track to deliver between 600 million and 1 billion doses by the end of the year.
The company, which has never brought a product to market before, predicted $11.7 billion in vaccine-related sales this year based on advance purchase agreements signed with governments.
How long a particular vaccine can protect against disease is not well understood. Some vaccines can provide protection for months or years and others a lifetime. Data from the extensive clinical trials conducted on the Covid-19 vaccines does not tell us how long any immunity lasts. This will become clearer over time and is something manufacturers and regulators will monitor carefully. They will also monitor for changes to the virus, and it is common for manufacturers to return to the development stage if mutations occur. Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are all using a new type of technology for vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), though there are some differences. Unlike many other vaccines which rely on weakened or dead viruses that must be grown in vast quantities, this molecule can simply be tweaked as needed and put back into the vaccine. “mRNA is fantastic because you can just swap a new strain and run with it,” Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, previously told Forbes.
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