Moderna CEO: Not everyone will need an annual COVID booster

The COVID-19 booster market is starting to look more like an annual flu season than it did in the first two years of the pandemic.

That's according to Moderna (MRNA) CEO Stéphane Bancel, who joined Yahoo Finance's 2022 All Markets Summit to discuss the COVID vaccine outlook.

Bancel noted that not everyone is likely to need an annual booster. "I think it's going to be like the flu. If you're a 25-year-old do you need an annual booster every year if you're healthy? You might want to ... but I think it's going to be similar to flu where it's going to be people at high risk, people above 50 years of age, people with co-morbidities," Bancel said.

That isn't the 8 billion global population potential market of the pandemic, but it is still 1.5 billion people that fall into those categories, Bancel said.

"It's a lot of people that are going to need an annual booster. And people that are younger are going to need to decide what to do," he said, noting that he has chosen to get an annual flu shot for years.

While many health experts have been worried about the low uptake in boosters and what it could mean for the coming winter variants, others have echoed Bancel's comments, including Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Dr. Paul Offit, who recently told Yahoo Finance that boosters are most important for high-risk groups.

With the new bivalent boosters seeing low demand, with only 5% uptake in the month since they've been authorized, questions swirl about what the U.S. has in store for the winter.

Bancel said that uptake is still higher than the seasonal flu vaccine.

"The uptake is actually stronger than seasonal flu from that data I've seen," he said, adding that time will tell.

"It's the first time we're going to be more in an 'endemic' setting (rather) than a pandemic setting," Bancel said.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine was the company's first commercial product and continues to be the key source of revenue today.

FILE - A pharmacist injects a patient with a booster dosage of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Lawrence, Mass., on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.  U.S. regulators have authorized updated COVID-19 boosters, the first to directly target today's most common omicron strain. The move on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2022,  by the Food and Drug Administration tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna  that already have saved millions of lives.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - A pharmacist injects a patient with a booster dosage of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Lawrence, Mass., on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. U.S. regulators have authorized updated COVID-19 boosters, the first to directly target today's most common omicron strain. The move on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2022, by the Food and Drug Administration tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that already have saved millions of lives. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

COVID-19 market

But low demand isn't just a U.S. problem. The COVID-19 vaccine market globally is waning, even as new variants burden health care systems.

Even so, Moderna stands to gain from its market position.

A new report from Airfinity pegs the two mRNA vaccines as market dominant, at 94% overall, for 2023. But, the report notes that demand is falling, and with that revenues will follow. Moderna and competitor Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE/BNTX) are both increasing prices as a result — and are preparing for even higher prices once entering the commercial market, which will begin once existing government contracts are fulfilled.

"Moderna is estimated to be selling vials for between $32 - $50 with the United States potentially paying even more. Moderna indicated that the potential prices in the U.S. market could range from $64 to $100 per dose," the report said.

This comes while even more competitors come online, but according to the report, still won't be able to penetrate at the level Moderna and Pfizer.

Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem

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