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ZURICH (Reuters) - Moderna Inc Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel thinks the coronavirus pandemic could be over in a year as increased vaccine production ensures global supplies, he told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
"If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this earth can be vaccinated. Boosters should also be possible to the extent required," he told the newspaper in an interview.
Vaccinations would soon be available even for infants, he said.
"Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious. In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don't do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital."
Asked if that meant a return to normal in the second half of next year, he said: "As of today, in a year, I assume."
Bancel said he expected governments to approve booster shots for people already vaccinated because patients at risk who were vaccinated last autumn "undoubtedly" needed a refresher.
Its booster shot had half the dose of the original dose, which meant more of them would be available.
"The volume of vaccine is the biggest limiting factor. With half the dose, we would have 3 billion doses available worldwide for the coming year instead of just 2 billion," he said.
The composition of the booster shot remains the same as the original for this year because Moderna had not had enough time to change it.
"We are currently testing Delta-optimized variants in clinical trials. They will form the basis for the booster vaccination for 2022. We are also trying out Delta plus Beta, the next mutation that scientists believe is likely."
Moderna can use existing production lines for the new variants as for the original COVID-19 vaccine. The price of vaccination will stay the same, he said.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Robert Birsel)