Stephane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, told CNBC’s “Squad Box” on Monday that “it will be months” before the company can develop and ship a COVID-19 omicron variant vaccine.
Bancel said that Moderna could have a higher, 100-microgram dose booster shot ready much earlier to meet demand in the meantime.
“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 told the network.
The executive said that once Moderna learns about the new variant, it may consider allocating higher doses of existing shots, including a fourth dose for the elderly.
“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,” Bancel said.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC that the FDA could move fast to approve a new vaccine to target omicron.
“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.
The omicron variant was first identified in Gauteng, South Africa, but Bancel warned it has already spread globally.
On Friday, flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa had 61 of 624 passengers test positive for COVID-19. At least 13 of them are infected with the omicron strain, according to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
The U.S. on Monday implemented travel restrictions for individuals coming from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
The omicron variant has spread to several other countries, including Italy, Germany, Scotland, Canada, Israel, Botswana, and Hong Kong.