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Moderna CEO says its COVID-19 vaccine likely to protect for 'couple of years'

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel also said Thursday that his company is nearing an announcement that its vaccine should be effective against new strains of the coronavirus that have been seen in Britain and South Africa.

COVID vaccine
COVID vaccine
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Updated: January 7, 2021 - 5:26pm

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Moderna's CEO on Thursday said its COVID-19 vaccine is likely to protect people for a couple of years.

The U.S. biotech company, which developed its vaccine in conjunction with the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 18 and is currently distributing its vaccine across the U.S. 

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Thursday that despite media reports speculating that a COVD-19 vaccine might be the same as one for the flu — which millions of Americans take annually — it likely will last longer. 

"The nightmare scenario that was described in the media in the spring with a vaccine only working a month or two is, I think, out of the window," Bancel said. "The antibody decay generated by the vaccine in humans goes down very slowly ... We believe there will be protection potentially for a couple of years."

Bancel added his company is nearing an announcement that its vaccine should be effective against new strains of the coronavirus, which have been seen in Britain and South Africa.

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, the first in the U.S., was approved by the FDA for an EUA on Dec. 11. Moderna said its data showed its vaccine was 95% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, the same as Pfizer's. 

A key advantage of Moderna's vaccine is that it does not need sub-zero storage like Pfizer's, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees. A third vaccine, one developed by AstraZeneca and researchers at Oxford University, was approved Dec. 30 for emergency use in Britain.

In mid-December, a new strain of COVID-19 was found in Britain that reportedly spreads more easily and is causing some alarm — though it's not clear if the morphed strain is more deadly or causes more severe symptoms. "Health experts in the U.K. and U.S. said the strain seems to infect more easily than others, but there is no evidence yet it is more deadly," the Associated Press reported on Dec. 20.

Late last month, the mutant strain was detected in France, Ireland and Sweden, NBC News reported. But White House coronavirus testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir said Dec. 28: "We have no evidence that suggests, nor do we believe, that ... the vaccine would not be effective. In other words, we do believe the vaccine will be effective against this variant."

The next day, the first case of the U.K. strain was detected in a Colorado resident who had not traveled abroad. The virus has also been found in California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week.

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