NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – While the COVID vaccine rollout continues to accelerate, new questions are popping up.

Will the shots cover the new variants, will we need boosters or annual vaccines?

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CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez spoke with the CEO of Moderna to get some answers.

After hundreds of millions of doses of COVID vaccines given so far, it’s clear that they are remarkably safe and extremely effective against the original, so-called “ancestral” virus strain. But the coronavirus has shown itself to be adept at doing what viruses do: Mutate and evolve into more infectious, and potentially more lethal, variants.

COVID VACCINE

Will the vaccine work against those new strains?

“What we know is that for the U.K. variants, the vaccine works superbly. Like the same as the ancestral strain, from one same thing,” said Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, the Boston biotech that produced a COVID vaccine for testing in just 60 days.

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While the present vaccine does provide some protection against the South Africa strain, Moderna is already anticipating future vaccine protocols.

“We already shipped to Dr. Fauci team a new vaccine where we change the DNA instruction into the amount of vaccine, where we basically accounting for 100%  of a South Africa virus. And the idea is to use that as a single dose boost that you could give to people six months, nine months, 12 months after the first vaccination. This is going to be tested in the clinic very quickly,” Bancel said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Whether that booster dose, and perhaps even a yearly shot, may also be needed won’t be known until we know how long the vaccines will provide immunity to the virus, or how many variants will be circulating.

“If you mean some years, we have to do three variants and then combine them together in a single dose, we will do that and we will not wait,” Bancel said.

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Bancel said while Moderna can produce new vaccine variants very quickly, but it has to first know the genetics of a new strain, and that will require much ramped up genetic sequencing of virus samples from around the world.

Dr. Max Gomez