COVID-19 vaccine boosters likely needed every 9 to 12 months, Moderna president says

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots may be necessary every nine to 12 months, according to Dr. Stephen Hoge — the president of vaccine manufacturer Moderna.

"That probably looks like boosting on a nine to 12 month after primary series as an annual booster for now, at least while we’re continuing to see the evolution of the virus," Hoge said during an earnings call Thursday.

Hoge noted that Moderna does not believe the virus is going to follow one path of evolution, so the best way to ensure protection "against the broadest number of variants of concern is a multivalent vaccine." Moderna is still waiting to receive complete data, Hoge said.

Stéphane Bancel, the company’s chief executive officer, also discussed the importance of boosters during the call. 

"New variants of concern continue to emergence around the world. And we believe that over the next six months as the southern hemisphere enters the fall and winter, we could see more variants of concern emerge," Bancel said. "We believe booster shots will be needed, as we believe that the virus is not going away."

Similarly, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla last month said boosters would likely need to be administered within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated.

Moderna and Pfizer are two of the three FDA-authorized vaccines being administered in the United States. They’re both two-dose mRNA vaccines, as opposed to the single-dose shot offered by Johnson & Johnson.

RELATED: Pfizer CEO says third dose of vaccine 'likely' needed within 1 year

That means a Moderna or Pfizer booster would be a third injection for the recipient.

Since the vaccines received emergency use authorization in the winter, more than 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19 case numbers have declined, but most importantly, hospitalization and death rates have rapidly fallen — preventing the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

Even so, the development of variants and the slow rate of vaccinations in other parts of the world threatens to derail all of that progress. So far, major variants have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Experts say data shows these variants have not evaded the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines, but that may change the longer the virus has a chance to incubate in hosts and mutate.

Pharmaceutical companies that have created successful vaccines are focusing on creating boosters that would protect the population against any potential variants of the virus that may arise. 

RELATED: Moderna vaccine booster appears to neutralize South Africa, Brazil COVID-19 variants

On Wednesday, Moderna boasted positive data about boosters from its ongoing clinical trial. The company said a single dose of its vaccine given as a booster to previously fully vaccinated individuals "increased neutralizing antibody" responses against both the South African and Brazilian variants.

Participants in the study were given the vaccine boosters approximately six to eight months after their initial shots.

"We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants," said Bancel.

RELATED: Fauci says variants are ‘wild card’ in COVID-19 booster vaccine equation

In an interview with FOX Television Stations on April 6, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the government is already collaborating with vaccine makers to have a stockpile of boosters should they ever become necessary.

"We’re going to be stockpiling enough vaccines to be able to give boosters to people," said Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases. "We’re also doing some clinical trials to see if you boost, what happens to the level of total antibodies, what happens to the level of antibodies against the variant, so we’re anticipating the need to be able to adjust to these variants that might arise, and we’re doing the clinical trials as well as purchasing more vaccine in case we do have to boost people."

This story was reported from Atlanta. Austin Williams and Stephanie Weaver contributed.