Moderna is seeking approval for an updated vaccine aimed at fighting the COVID-19 variant first found in South Africa. It means people who are vaccinated twice might need a third shot, and possibly more in the future. David Begnaud reports.
TONY DOKOUPIL: Meanwhile, another vaccine maker, Moderna, says it's beginning tests on a new booster shot targeting one of the COVID variants that is spreading rapidly. Our lead national correspondent David Begnaud is in Los Angeles this morning. David, good morning to you. Some good news.
Good morning. The concerns over that COVID very first detected in South Africa continue to grow. The variant is now in at least 14 states. And data suggest it could reduce the protection that people are getting from existing vaccines. So the drug companies are now working on those booster shots. That means folks who already have gotten vaccinated might have to get back in line.
It has been about a week now since Antonio Whiteley got his second dose of the Moderna vaccine. He is an acupuncturist who practices holistic medicine and says he jumped at the chance to get vaccinated, because he's a designated health care provider.
ANTHONY WHITELEY: I'm not afraid of it and I trust science.
DAVID BEGNAUD: But now he may have to get an additional booster shot from Moderna.
ANTHONY WHITELEY: Am I thrilled? No. Because maybe even after this booster, what if there's another booster after that?
DAVID BEGNAUD: That is a real possibility, according to Moderna's president, Dr. Stephen Hoge.
STEPHEN HOGE: Well, I think we all hope that this doesn't become something that happens for everybody every year in the same way as it currently does. But it is definitely true that we could run into a situation where we're ultimately needing to provide a booster vaccine every year or every few years based on the evolution of the virus.
DAVID BEGNAUD: Now Moderna is not alone. There are other vaccine manufacturers all racing to develop boosters. They'll all need to go through the FDA's approval process, but that could go quicker than you think, thanks partly to the success of earlier large scale vaccine trials. Agency officials say smaller, shorter studies could assure the safety of the variant booster shots. Now those trials would require hundreds, not thousands of participants. And it could take only a few months.
STEPHEN HOGE: This is actually not a change in the effectiveness of the vaccine, it's the evolution of the virus. And so the vaccines are highly effective. That's been proven in clinical trials. But the virus isn't going to give up just with one fight.
DAVID BEGNAUD: And that's why Mr Whiteley says he'll line up for the next one if he needs one.
ANTHONY WHITELEY: I will do what it takes to stop the spread of this. So if there is a booster, I will have no problems saying yes to taking that booster.
DAVID BEGNAUD: So we asked Dr. Hoge with Moderna about the concerns vaccinated people have about the possibility of needing multiple booster shots as the virus continues to mutate. He says it is possible we could end up needing a booster annually or maybe even more often than that. But he notes that many people put up with getting the flu shot every year. He says with COVID, it would be a small inconvenience to get our lives back on track.
GAYLE KING: I'll say, David. I'm from the do whatever it takes to get our lives back school. Thank you very much.