CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Hours after Moderna announced its vaccine was 96% effective in 12 to 17-year-olds – Boston 25 News anchor Vanessa Welch sat down with Moderna president Stephen Hoge at their Cambridge headquarters. They covered a lot of ground about the teen study results, how often we might need boosters, profits, and how the vaccine does against variants.
Below is an excerpt from that exclusive interview:
WELCH: Talk to me about the timeline, when could these kids start getting the shot?
HOGE: Well, if you ask my kids, my adolescents, in particular, tell you, not soon enough. We still need to get a little bit more data on safety and collect some additional data before we can submit it to regulators. So our hope with the data that we have is that we’ll be able to submit it in the coming months and actually get people vaccinated over the summer.
WELCH: And that means these kids will be vaccinated before they head back to school in the fall?
HOGE: If you look to my teenagers, they’ll tell you they really want to be vaccinated so they can go back to school more as normal in the fall.
WELCH: What are you seeing, as far as side effects go in this age group,
HOGE: The same sorts of relatively short duration, adverse events: a little bit of not feeling well, or some pain at the injection site that resolves. We really see no serious side effects, and nothing that we would call grade four, that would be a limiter for the vaccine being able to move forward.
WELCH: I’ve heard from parents, moms and dads who got the shot themselves, but they’re a little nervous about getting it to their kids, especially those who are still developing, still growing. Is it safe for kids?
HOGE: We think it is. And I certainly expect my family members to also receive the vaccine. Our expectation is by the time we recommend this for kids, certainly by the time the FDA would see the file or the CDC would have a chance to review it, it will be a really well studied and safe vaccine to give to children.
WELCH: Can you understand why some parents might be a little hesitant?
HOGE: Absolutely. I think it’s entirely natural for parents to be most protective of their children. And that’s why you have to have faith in the process that we’re running highly regarded studies being conducted independently, and then independently reviewed by the FDA, and by the CDC. And ultimately, that’s the threshold for moving forward and vaccinating children.
On Boosters & Variants:
WELCH: New data now shows your booster shot is effective against the variants…How do you get ahead of the variants, is there a way to develop one shot that fights them all?
HOGE: We’re trying to create exactly that booster. And so what we’re trying to do right now is create what’s called a multi-valent booster. This is where you bring in multiple different variants into a single vaccine. Now, it’s not multiple injections, this will just be like a regular booster vaccine, like your flu vaccine, but it’ll perfect protect you against the full range of variants that are circulating.
WELCH: People hear the word booster, We hear some grumbling from people who don’t want to have to do this multiple times a year. How often do you think we’ll need a Booster?
HOGE: During the pandemic, while the virus is evolving, we think probably at least annually, particularly going into the winter season, kind of very similar to your flu vaccine. After that, after the virus, evolution slows down. And really after, there’s a much lower chance that you’d be exposed or infected, if you’re traveling or if you run into somebody in the street. That would be a time when we might be able to space those boosters out further. But it really depends upon clinical data. For now, I think our assumption is an annual booster, not unlike your flu vaccine.
WELCH: Profit numbers now show the vaccine generated $1.7 billion dollars for Moderna. You anticipate a vaccine revenue of 19.2 billion in 2021. When critics who look at these numbers and say this is all about profits and money, what do you say to those folks?
HOGE: There’s an incredibly high demand for the vaccine. We’ve tried to make sure that we’re pricing it very responsibly at less than $20. In the United States, it’s actually essentially free to Americans. And it’s really comparable to your annual flu vaccine. The fact that the demand is so high really has to do with the burden of disease we’re facing in the pandemic. And obviously, we hope we can end that as soon as possible.
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