Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) CEO Stephane Bancel on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Thursday, August 5th. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com:
Moderna CEO On Its Latest Vaccine Efficacy Data
MEG TIRRELL: Stephane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna joins us now. Stephane, welcome. You’ve got a lot of news in your release this morning in addition to your earnings, particularly about your COVID vaccine. Let’s start with the six-month results that you have showing 93% efficacy is durable all the way out to six months. You know, we just saw data from Pfizer showing that their efficacy at six months drops to 84%. Are you saying this is sort of directly comparable and Moderna at six months stays at 93%?
STEPHANE BANCEL: Yes, good morning Meg. Indeed we're very pleased to share the final analysis of a Phase 3 at 93% which shows very good duration of efficacy. If you think about it, the studies were done at similar time, they were done in similar design with the same that we're creating in the US. So, we're very happy with that duration because that's what's really important to protect people.
TIRRELL: Well, of course there's been so much talk about the need for booster shots and you're already seeing multiple countries making plans to give them. What's your expectation for what we'll see here in the US when people might start to need and to get boosters?
BANCEL: So, I think there's a few things to think about why is of course duration of protection, when people have been vaccinated first and with which vaccine and how is that vaccine holding on in terms of efficacy. And then of course there's the variants because, you know, Delta is a very different virus than the others we had initially designed in all of our vaccines and so it's important to think about boosting. We're also sharing this morning and we're going to review the data on the call at 8AM and we're going to publish in the coming days. We've shown you the Moderna vaccine that if you give a third dose of the same vaccine that is currently used in the US, you actually see a very important increase in geometric mean titer, the quantity of antibodies. For the Beta virus, the one first identified in South Africa, you get 42x increase between second does and third dose. For the Gamma, the P.1 in Brazil, you get 43x and for Delta, which we care a lot about, you get 42x and so we think the boosters are going to be very helpful to keep people safe for the long term but of course it's up to the public officials to decide what to do and when to do it.
TIRRELL: Stephane, on the topic of booster shots, you know, we've already seen multiple countries going forward with these plans but yesterday the World Health Organization Director-General calling for a moratorium on boosters at least until September in order to enable more access for countries that haven't been able to get access to the vaccines quite as much and calling on companies in particular to prioritize the COVAX initiative to get doses to lower and middle-income countries. How is Moderna responding to that call?
BANCEL: So we have partnership with COVAX which is very important to us that is going to start because of when it was put in place in Q4. We also have direct, you know, partnership with a lot of countries around the world in Asia, in Africa and Latin America and so we think it's very important but again, it’s a public health matter that public health leaders in the countries have to decide itself or the company to decide what happens but we're very committed to COVAX. I remind you that we’ve committed half a billion dose to COVAX so far and we proposed to them to go even higher if they desire so.
BECKY QUICK: Hey Stephane. Some of the information we've heard just about Pfizer's durability and different age group has convinced me that booster shots are the right call especially for older Americans because it seems like efficacy wears off over time, particularly for that age group. But when you're talking about 93% of efficacy after six months, that's not a huge argument for a booster shot. Are there age groups or demographics within that data that that show a bigger decline and that you think might be more likely to need something?
BANCEL: So, it's interesting. The data that we have shows across all age groups very good efficacy duration. If you remember our Phase 1 data showed antibodies even in the 65 and above to get the same level as the young adults which was not the case for other vaccines. You know, we have been investing in the science for 10 years, this is not our first vaccine, this was our 10th vaccine and because of our investment in science and technology, we were able to get quite a high dose into our vaccine so I'm really hoping that this will protect people for the long term, but what we also want our booster to be used for is to help people that were vaccinated with another vaccine—
BANCEL: As you’ve seen efficacy in the 60s, some vaccines not have the same duration of protection that we are showing.
BANCEL: And so, we use the Moderna vaccine to help boost as many people as we can that have received the other vaccines as well.
QUICK: But is there a drop off with different age groups, you say a very high level, but is it, is there less, less of an efficacy for people over age 65 or even older?
BANCEL: With our vaccine, you see very similar efficacy in all age group.
QUICK: So no, okay. Again though, I don't understand the need for a booster if that's the case but you're saying a booster may be for people who got the other shots like a J&J. CVS said yesterday that they're not going to be offering J&J shots in most of their stores. They didn't give a reason but I'd have to guess that maybe it's because demand not being there for that shot. Would you recommend Moderna boosters for people who got J&J shots?
BANCEL: I'm not a clinical person so I cannot make such a recommendation that's for the medical community and the public health leader and the FDA and the CDC to decide. The other piece too Becky that I think is important is in the data we're sharing today like the data that other companies have shared recently in the through six months of data, our Phase 3, after the boost that if you look at the timeframe, Delta was not yet present in that data set because this was as you know, a US based clinical study. And this is why the third dose even in the Moderna setup is going to be important to protect against variants of concern and we don't think Delta is the last variant we’re going to see.
BANCEL: Stephane, I'm wondering about the new, you know, thinking about data, Delta changing the picture so much. The CDC, of course, revising its mask guidance to suggest people in high or substantial transmission areas wear masks indoors because of the potential for people who are fully vaccinated to be able to be contagious. I visited you guys at Moderna maybe a month or two ago and nobody was wearing masks, you believe in the protection of your shot but has Delta changed that are you guys going back to wearing masks indoors because of the risk of Delta and the possibility of being able to transmit at fully vaccinated?
BANCEL: What we have done throughout the pandemic is to follow CDC guidelines. We think it is our public health responsibility. It has nothing to do with how strongly we believe about our vaccine. It is just that we need to show leadership and show the example, if CDC is asking people to mask indoor, we are going to mask indoor.
QUICK: To keep coming back and harping on this but when you said the need for the booster is there because the Delta variant, this was a study that took place in the United States and the Delta variant wasn't there, that gets me back to the apples to apples comparison with the Pfizer numbers for, for efficacy. Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) was doing that I think at the time South Africa was a big part of where they were doing some of it and the South African variant was, was running there so would you say it's an apples to apples comparison because people are going to look at this and say oh, is Moderna giving me better protection than Pfizer is. Is it fair to do apples to apples just based on where your surveys were taking or where your studies were taking place and where theirs were?
BANCEL: I think the study was mostly done in the US for Pfizer, but again, I did not run that study so you need to ask that question to the Pfizer team.
QUICK: There were some in South America too.
BANCEL: I just don't know the number of people and so the ratio will of course have a big impact on the math.
TIRRELL: Alright Stephane. I think we got to wrap up here, but we really appreciate you being with us this morning. We'll be on your call at 8AM, listening for a lot more news. Thanks again.
BANCEL: Thank you very much.