Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel spoke out on Monday to say that it will take months for a shot that targets the omicron variant of COVID-19 to be cleared for the public.
However, Bancel added to CNBC  that a higher 100-microgram dose of the company’s booster shot could be out much sooner than that.
“The higher dose could be done right away but it will be months before the omicron specific variant is ready to ship in massive quantities,” Bancel said, adding that Moderna thinks that the omicron variant is highly infectious. It will take about two weeks to figure out how the mutations have effected the efficacy of the current vaccines that are being used to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“Depending on how much it dropped, we might decide on the one hand to give a higher dose of the current vaccine around the world to protect people, maybe people at very high risk, the immunocompromised, and the elderly should need a fourth dose,” the Moderna CEO said.
Bancel also said that Moderna researchers are taking the omicron variant very seriously.
“We also believe it is already present in most countries,” Bancel said. “I believe most countries that have direct flights from South Africa in the last seven to 10 days already have cases in their country that they may not be aware of.”
Bancel then stated that the symptoms that are being reported out of South Africa of this variant may not be a good indicator of its virulence.
“I think today, it’s really impossible to know…I don’t believe that what’s going to happen in the coming week or two in South Africa will be predicting to be full virulence of a virus,” he concluded.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said that the FDA can expedite the process of approving a new jab that would combat the omicron variant.
“I think the FDA is in a position to move very quickly at this point because they understand the basic platform, the manufacturing has been inspected, they understand the risk-benefit of the mRNA platforms generally,” said Gottlieb, who happens to be on the board at Pfizer.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that researchers are still trying to determine omicron’s impact on their shots.
“I don’t think that the result will be the vaccines don’t protect,” Bourla said. “I think the result could be, which we don’t know yet, the vaccines protect less.”