The next few months will be more challenging because doses of the shots will be limited and coronavirus cases are surging.
- Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told Business Insider that a coronavirus vaccine would be available to any American adult who wanted one by June.
- The upstart Massachusetts biotech company on Monday said its experimental vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in a late-stage trial.
- Bancel shared his prediction for how the next year would play out as vaccines were distributed, including a return to normal for the US in the summer.
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A coronavirus vaccine will be widely available in the US to any adult who wants it by the start of summer, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel predicted Sunday.
"What I believe is that by Memorial Day, in the US, anybody who wants a vaccine will get a safe and efficacious vaccine," Bancel said in an interview with Business Insider. Memorial Day, the US holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer, takes place May 31 next year.
The upstart Massachusetts biotech on Monday said its vaccine candidate was highly effective at preventing COVID-19. A week earlier, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech also announced success with their shot.
Bancel said his timeline was based on the manufacturing capacity of Pfizer and Moderna.
"Even if no other vaccines were going to make it, as a worst-case scenario, I think by Memorial Day, end of June, any Americans who want a vaccine will have their hands on a vaccine," he said.
A return to normal
Looking further down the line, Bancel said he envisioned a return to normal next summer. Some of the top US public-health authorities have put out more aggressive timelines. The nation's top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have predicted a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available by April.
Fauci on Sunday said the US could be back to "relative normal" by the second or third quarter of next year if most people were willing to receive coronavirus vaccines.
While Moderna's vaccine has so far been tested only in adults, the company is planning to expand its trials to adolescents. Bancel said he hoped the vaccine could be approved to be given to teenagers next summer and teens could get vaccinated in July and August.
"September 2021 is back-to-school normal," Bancel said. "People can go shopping, get their gear and their backpacks, and go back to school with no mask. And go back to what we all feel is normal life."
Doses will be extremely limited over the next few months
Bancel's timeline still leaves a little less than 200 days until Memorial Day and nearly 300 days until September. With the pandemic now surging across the US, with rising levels of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, Bancel stressed that now is the time to wear masks and socially distance.
For the near-term timeline, Moderna and Pfizer plan to apply for emergency-use authorization with US regulators before the end of November. The US Food and Drug Administration's review process will most likely take weeks.
"Potentially in December you could get both vaccines approved by the FDA under EUA," Bancel said.
Moncef Slaoui, the chief advisor for the US government's flagship effort to expedite a vaccine rollout, known as Operation Warp Speed, recently predicted that 20 million Americans could be immunized in December if both shots were approved.
Entering 2021, both companies plan to rapidly ramp up manufacturing. Bancel said he expected doses to be prioritized through January, February, and March for people at high risk, such as older people and those with comorbidities.
He estimated Moderna would have made 100 million doses — enough to vaccinate 50 million people — by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
"Q1 is going to feel still not fun, because not everybody will get their hands on the vaccine," Bancel said.