Moderna CEO: reasonable to suggest COVID-19 pandemic in final stages – Business Insider

  • Moderna’s CEO says that it’s “reasonable” to suggest the pandemic is nearing its end.
  • There’s an 80% chance that the virus causing COVID-19 will get less virulent, Stéphane Bancel said.
  • Experts have warned that we can’t yet be sure if the virus will evolve to be less deadly.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel has said it is “reasonable” to consider the COVID-19 pandemic almost over.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Wednesday about whether he believed that the pandemic was in its final stages, Bancel said: “I think that is a reasonable scenario.”

Bancel said he thinks there was “about an 80% chance” that as the virus evolves, it will become “less and less virulent.”

If this were the case, Bancel still expects people older than fifty, and those at high risk of severe illness, to be boosted against COVID-19 each year.

“This virus is going to stay with humans forever, like flu, and we’d have to live with it,” he said. 

But Bancel cautioned that there remained a chance – which he pegged at 20% – that the next mutation could make the virus more virulent than the Omicron variant.

“I think we got lucky as a world that Omicron was not very virulent, but still we are losing thousands of people dying every day around the planet,” he said. “The virus is unpredictable.”

Experts may agree on the virus’ unpredictability, but not necessarily on Bancel’s more optimistic prediction. 

Francois Balloux, director at the University College London Genetics Institute, said on Twitter Wednesday that there was “no meaningful theory” that the virus that causes COVID-19 was mutating to be inherently less virulent.

Meanwhile, Ashish Jha, dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Twitter Wednesday that there was “no guarantee” future variants would be less virulent. “A large surge can be deadly,” he said, adding that, ahead of any future variant, the focus should be on getting more people vaccinated and boosted. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general at the World Health Organization, warned in late January that it was “dangerous” to assume that Omicron would be the last variant to emerge during the pandemic or that “we are in the endgame.” Learning to live with COVID-19 cannot mean “we gamble on a virus whose evolution we cannot control or predict,” he said.

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