One of Britain’s key vaccine suppliers is preparing an autumn COVID booster that will protect against both Omicron and Delta.
In a rare interview, Moderna’s chief medical officer told Sky News that the Omicron wave had peaked in many countries and we are “coming out of the pandemic phase”.
Dr Paul Burton warned the BA.2 subvariant that is already dominant in Denmark needs to be closely monitored, but the spring should bring relative stability.
However, he predicted Omicron would return as a significant threat next autumn – and Delta must not be forgotten.
He said: “We think Omicron will still be here. This is a virus we can’t eradicate anytime soon.
“Delta caused a lot of hospitalisation and death. Omicron causes a lot of that as well but it’s more through bulk of infection.
“So what we have to do is be ready with a vaccine that can protect against all of that.
“Right now we’re going with an Omicron booster but we think we may need to combine it with some Delta protection too.”
Moderna has recently begun clinical trials of an Omicron-specific booster.
But Dr Burton revealed that the company will soon begin tests of a super-booster that also protects against flu, which could become an annual “winter tune-up”.
“I’m confident that we can get to a once yearly vaccine,” he said.
“So then you can go to your pharmacy or doctor and get a single flu and COVID injection, get tuned up for winter, and get protected. And we’d hope to be able to bring that out in the winter of 2023.
“People don’t like getting injections, it’s inconvenience, it stings a bit.
“The more we can do to make it simple for people – a single shot – is very appealing.”
Dr Burton also said that resistance to the vaccine from high-profile figures such as Novak Djokovic needs to be countered with clear facts on the benefits of the jab.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of confusion as well,” he said.
“The fact that vaccination, with boosting, reduces your risk of dying and being hospitalised by 97% gets lost on people.
“If other people want to make choices and not get vaccinated, that’s up to them. But the general public need to know the information and be confident.”