- Moderna will begin testing a COVID-19 vaccine targeting both the original coronavirus strain and the omicron variant, announces Thursday trials in the US and UK that will assess its effectiveness in people who have already received boosters.
- Business executives who spoke on an earnings call Thursday said additional protection will be needed as they expect immunity to boosters to wane over time and the virus to continue circulating. While new variants may emerge, a vaccine that stimulates antibodies to omicron could help extend protection against a wider range of coronavirus strains, they said.
- Moderna expects sales of their existing coronavirus vaccine to increase in the second half of 2022 as COVID-19 becomes endemic. At the end of last year, the company reduce its sales and delivery expectations for 2021 after shipping delays and production setbacks.
Public health authorities and vaccine manufacturers have discussed whether an omicron-specific booster or additional shots will be needed to protect those already immunized while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. While data have indicated sustained protection against serious illness, declining antibody levels and the emergence of variants remain risks, even in those who have received two shots.
Moderna has now placed its bet, claiming that declining immunity in the midst of the coronavirus’ continued spread will necessitate a new round of booster shots by the fall of 2022.
The company announced on Thursday that a so-called bivalent vaccine will be included in a US Phase 2 trial with 750 volunteers and a UK Phase 3 trial in 3,000, where it will be tested along with an omicron-specific shot. The volunteers will receive at least three shots, and in the UK trial, both will be measured against a booster using the company’s Spikevax vaccine as a control arm.
The expected demand for booster doses drives Moderna executives’ forecast for rising sales through 2022. The company outlined already signed $ 19 billion pre-purchase agreements – a figure that has increased by $ 500 million since executives last revealed totals to investors in January – and up to $ 3 billion in sales that could be driven by opt-in contracts. The latter figure is $ 500 million lower than in January.
Modern executives presented earnings for the fourth quarter and full year Thursday and also confirmed that Spikevax delivery and sales fell behind previous forecasts. The company delivered 807 million vaccine doses in 2021, resulting in year-over-year sales of $ 18.5 billion, product sales of $ 17.7 billion and a profit of more than $ 12 billion.
Earlier in 2021, the company had said it expected to generate $ 20 billion in sales and deliver 1 billion doses, but reduced those numbers when it reported third-quarter earnings.
In addition to Thursday’s earnings, Moderna also announced a plan to repurchase shares for up to $ 3 billion after follow-up to a $ 1 billion repurchase program, which it completed in late January.
Moderna shares rose in double digits Thursday morning, trading hands at over $ 150 apiece.