Moderna CEO says the world must dwell with Covid ‘ceaselessly’

Modern CEO Stephane Bancel

Steven Ferdman | Getty Images

The CEO of Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus, which has stalled the global economy and overwhelmed hospitals, will last “forever.”

Public health officials and infectious disease experts have indicated that there is a high probability that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease, meaning it will be present in communities at all times, albeit likely at lower levels than it is now.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel appeared to agree on Wednesday for Covid-19 to become endemic, saying “SARS-CoV-2 will not go away.”

“We will live with this virus forever,” he said during a panel discussion at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

Health officials must constantly look for new variants of the virus so scientists can make vaccines against them, he said. Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday they had discovered two new varieties, likely originating in the United States, and one of which quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio over a three-week period in late December and early January.

Pfizer researchers said its vaccine, developed with BioNTech, was effective against a key mutation in the British strain, as well as against a variant found in South Africa.

Moderna’s vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in Americans 18 years and older. More studies had to be completed in children whose immune systems may respond differently to vaccines than adults.

U.S. officials are trying to hand out doses of both vaccines, but it will likely be months before the U.S. can vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity, meaning the virus won’t have enough new hosts to spread. Still, Bancel said on Wednesday that he expected the US to be one of the first major countries to achieve “adequate protection” against the virus.

There are already four coronaviruses endemic worldwide, but according to the World Health Organization they are not as contagious or deadly as Covid-19.

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