“I think that’s a reasonable scenario.”
That was Moderna’s
chief executive officer Stephane Bancel, responding to a question about whether the world could be entering the last stages of the global coronavirus pandemic.
There is an “80% chance that as omicron evolves or SarsCov-2 virus evolves, we are going to see less and less virulent viruses,” Bancel told CNBC in an interview that published Wednesday. But he cautioned that there’s still a 20% chance of another scenario emerging involving a mutation “more virulant than omicron”.
The assessment on where we are in the pandemic from the chief of the COVID-19 vaccine maker comes as cases have continued falling in recent weeks across the U.S. and other countries, and pandemic restrictions ease.
Retailing giants Walmart
have dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated workers, tech companies such as Microsoft
are setting office return dates for employees, and even Disney World
has dropped mask requirements for vaccinated visitors.
President Joe Biden said in a recent interview that it was “probably premature” for states to drop their indoor face-mask requirements, and the Centers for Disease Control is sticking with its recommendation for protective face masks.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 stood at 922,473 on Tuesday, as the wave of cases caused by the highly infectious omicron variant continued to fall from January’s peak. Still, COVID-19 infections through the fast-spreading omicron variant have been wreaking havoc in parts of Asia, South Korea and Hong Kong seeing record cases.
“I think we got lucky as a world that omicron was not very virulent, but still are we see thousands of people dying every day around the planet because of omicron,” said Bancel, who added that “this virus is going to stay with humans forever, like flu and we’d have to live with it.”
Moderna has clinical studies underway of a specific vaccine for the omicron variant, should it be needed, he said.