Houston Fire Department paramedics prepare to transport a man with difficulty breathing from a senior citizen residential center to a hospital on September 14, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
John Moore | Getty Images
The rapidly spreading Delta variant is so contagious that it has exposed weaknesses in vaccine protection and changed the outlook for ending the pandemic, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said late Wednesday.
Delta is “just so good at infecting and replicating people that it raises the bar for how good vaccines have to be,” he said in a telephone interview. “It actually showed some of the weaknesses that [vaccines] sooner than you might expect. “
Moderna announced on Wednesday a new analysis from its Phase 3 study that showed that the incidence of breakthrough Covid cases occurring in fully vaccinated individuals was less common in a group of study participants who were recently vaccinated, suggesting that the Covid vaccine’s protection may wear off over time.
There were 88 identified breakthrough cases of 11,431 people vaccinated between December and March, the company said in a press release, compared to 162 breakthrough cases in 14,746 study participants vaccinated between July and October 2020.
The breakthrough cases aren’t just Delta’s fault, Hoge said. He suspects that the Covid cases in vaccinated people can be traced back to both the deterioration in vaccination protection over time and the highly transmissible variant.
“The Delta variant is not an immune escape variant,” he said, adding that the variant simply “weakens our defenses” at a time when vaccination protection is waning.
“That probably led to the Phase 3 results that we are seeing right now. It has led to the real effectiveness difference reported this summer between vaccines, ”he said.
Hoge said the drugmaker’s latest results, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, support the widespread use of Covid booster vaccinations.
“That’s the reason to pre-empt the problem and increase the thrust,” he said.
His comments come ahead of a Friday Food and Drug Administration Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting where a group of outside experts will discuss whether there is enough data to support widespread use of booster vaccinations in the United States
The group, known as the Agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, will discuss the administration of third doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine as federal health officials need more time to process Moderna’s request for additional doses check.
The course of the meeting could have ramifications for Moderna’s future booster shot plans.
The scientific community is currently divided over the need for booster vaccinations for the general public.
The Biden government has announced that it will offer booster injections to the public as early as next week pending FDA approval. The move is part of President Joe Biden’s broader plan to confront a higher number of Covid cases fueled by the rapidly spreading Delta variant.