Moderna President Stephen Hoge joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest information about Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.
STEPHEN HOGE: The key scientific question we're all wrestling with right now, which isn't how the vaccines are doing today. It's how are they going to do this winter? Three months from now, when we would expect there to be an increase in cases, as people go traveling for the holidays and come together. And there's only one way we can look into the future a year out from when most of us have been vaccinated and that's in our phase III trials, where many people were vaccinated over a year ago. And that's the day that you just described, that shows a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases for those who are vaccinated over a year ago, when you compare them against somebody vaccinated just six, eight months ago. And that's where we think most Americans will be towards the end of this year, as we get into the winter season.
If you extrapolate the number of breakthrough cases that are resulting from waning immunity in the broader US population of folks who've received our vaccine, it actually is almost 600,000 incremental cases of COVID-19 that we'd expect to emerge over just the next three or four months. So quite a large number of people. It's important to note that there's a higher risk for those who are older and those who have co-morbidities. And so while we do see breakthrough cases across the entire adult population and we ultimately do think there's a benefit to boosters for the whole adult population, it's clear the need is most acute in those over the age of 65 or those who have diabetes, obesity or chronic pulmonary diseases, other things that put them at high risk of severe disease if they ever did get COVID-19.
There is a lot of precedent in vaccinology that shows that a third dose six months after you've received your primary series, really is what's needed to lock in long-term protection. Many of the doses of the vaccines we receive as children have that feature, as well as some of the ones we receive now as adolescents. And so there's every reason to expect that this could be similar and that by giving a third dose, sometimes six or 12 months after you've received your primary vaccine, that we'll get really long-term protection for the majority of adults. Maybe not all, maybe high-risk people will still need a regular booster, but that's certainly the hope.
The challenge is that we won't know until we provide that third dose booster and really follow people out for six or 12 months and see whether or not immunity is actually holding up, when it's not waning anymore after that third dose. And so it's one of the situations that we've been in multiple times over the past year, where we need to follow the data and the science but we do need to take action ahead of the virus and ahead of really knowing what that long-term benefit will be.
I think the reason we should be doing boosters even not knowing whether it's a third and done or that this will be something we have to get used to annually, is that we know, based on the phase III data that we released today, that there is a benefit for this fall and winter.