Its new study, which Moderna published alongside its quarterly earnings today, revealed several key takeaways:
- Moderna’s two-dose vaccine lasts through six months. According to the company, a final analysis of its Phase 3 trials found the vaccine was 93% effective, and that efficacy holds strong for six months after the second dose. In comparison, Pfizer and BioNTech, the makers of the other major two-dose vaccine circulating in the United States, have said their efficacy fades from 95% to 84% by the sixth month.
- Booster shots will be needed come fall. The vaccine is not indefatigable: According to Moderna, it expects “neutralizing titers will continue to wane and eventually impact vaccine efficacy.” On an earnings call, company president Dr. Stephen Hoge said, “We believe a dose three of a booster will likely be necessary to keep us as safe as possible through the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.”
- The booster shots will likely defend against the delta variant. According to Moderna’s study, its booster candidate—a third dose of the original formula—showed a “robust” antibody response against the more contagious delta variant, as well as two other variants. It’s currently in Phase 2 human trials with previously vaccinated subjects.
Moderna also reported $4.2 billion in vaccine sales during the second quarter of 2021—a tremendous increase from the same time last year, when it had yet to bring a product to market and posted a revenue of just $67 million. The company has already signed agreements for vaccine purchases worth $20 billion through the end of this year and another $12 billion in 2022. Undoubtedly, booster shots would help realize those numbers.
But the World Health Organization has pushed back on booster shots, on Wednesday calling for a moratorium on wealthy nations stockpiling the vaccines until at least 10% of people in all countries are inoculated. That’s as scientists have yet to reach a consensus on whether boosters are necessary to abate the pandemic, and meanwhile, vaccine inequity is rampant: While the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have all achieved over 50% full vaccination status, poorer countries, such as India and South Africa, are at 7.9% and 5.5%, respectively.
However, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday advocated for a third dose for Americans with weakened immune systems, arguing that up to 80% of such patients—including those with cancer or organ transplants—did not produce detectable antibodies against COVID-19 after two doses. Federal health officials are currently in the process of authorizing the third dose, Fauci said at a briefing.