| April 14, 2021 03:33 PM
Moderna said it's working on combining the flu vaccine with its COVID-19 vaccine.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC's Squawk Box that the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company is developing a vaccine that will protect against both illnesses, reducing the number of booster shots recipients will have to get.
"This virus, as I've said before ... is not going to go away. It is not leaving the planet. We have to live with it, and we're living with it like we live with flu. ... And so, what we're trying to do at Moderna, actually, is to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccines with COVID vaccines so that you only have to get one boost," he said Wednesday morning.
Bancel, who said he believes the root of vaccine hesitancy for many is the low efficacy rates of some flu shots, expressed optimism about the potential combined vaccine's ability to protect against both the flu and COVID-19.
"We believe we can get a high-efficacy flu vaccine. As you know, the flu vaccines today, in good years, have 60% efficacy. In bad years, it's down to 30-40%, which is ... why many people don't take the flu shots," he said. "And we believe we should be able to get the high-efficacy flu vaccines combined in the same shot with a COVID variant, high efficacy, so that you can take one dose and then have a nice winter."
"What we're trying to do at Moderna ... combine our flu vaccine with our #COVID vaccines so that you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store that will protect you from the variant of concern for Covid and the seasonal flu strain," says $MRNA CEO @sbancel. pic.twitter.com/SxqfjCLwDD— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) April 14, 2021
The CEO's comments come as federal regulators are recommending a pause on the distribution of Johnson & Johnson's competing vaccine. Bancel said he thinks the decision is likely to increase public confidence in the Food and Drug Administration treating the vaccines' safety with appropriate seriousness.
“The FDA will not hesitate to be very cautious to analyze the data, to take the time required to do so, to protect the safety of the American people," he said.
The FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called for the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to be suspended Tuesday morning, following the news that six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within approximately two weeks of vaccination.
As Johnson & Johnson's distribution is reduced, the administration of Moderna and Pfizer shots are increasing. Last month, Moderna's president revealed that there's a chance that teenagers could begin getting vaccinated before the start of the next school year.
"We’ve already completed enrollment in our teen COVE trial, which is adolescents 12 to 17," Dr. Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna, said on March 17. "We expect to have data from that 12 to 17 teen COVE study, hopefully, perhaps by the summer so that we could be vaccinating adolescents going into the school year."
Pfizer, which was already approved for people age 16 and older, announced on Friday that it would ask federal regulators to authorize the administration of its coronavirus vaccines to children ages 12 to 15.
“Pending regulatory decision, our hope is to make this vaccine available to the 12-15-year-old age group before the start of the 2021 school year,” according to Pfizer's Twitter account.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in adults 18 and older.
More than 192 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, and 122 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose, representing 36.8% of the population, according to the CDC. Approximately 31 million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed throughout the U.S., and nearly 560,000 deaths have been attributed to the disease, the agency said.