Forget taking two to three Covid shots a year. Moderna hopes to roll out a single-dose annual booster to cover the coronavirus, the flu and another common respiratory virus within the next five years.
As Covid-19 continues to mutate, Moderna will need to keep updating the vaccines that turned it into a global household name while trying to make it more convenient for consumers, CEO Stéphane Bancel said in an interview with CNN Business Wednesday.
He estimated a timeline of “three to five years” for the new combined product, and likened the development of the life-saving jab to that of a smartphone.
“You don’t get the amazing camera, amazing everything the first time you get an iPhone, but you get a lot of things,” he said.
“A lot of us buy a new iPhone every September, and you get new apps and you get refreshed apps. And that’s exactly the same idea, which is you’ll get Covid and flu and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] in your single dose.”
Having recorded breakneck growth during the pandemic, Moderna () is now under pressure to identify its next big frontier.
Bancel believes the Covid-19 pandemic that helped the company rack up tens of billions of dollars in revenue and generate business in more than 70 markets globally could end as soon as this year.
That doesn’t mean the virus is going anywhere, he noted.
“I think we are slowly moving — if not already in some countries — to a world where all the tools are available, and everybody can make their own decision based on their risk tolerance,” he explained, adding that he believed more people would choose to “live with the virus,” much like they do with the flu.
The approach, however, will continue to vary greatly, such as among people who are immunocompromised or in countries like Japan, where it was common to wear masks even before the pandemic, he acknowledged.
And “there’s always a 20% probability that we get a very nasty variant that drives very severe disease that has a lot of mutation,” he added.