Moderna’s Chatty Chief Should Zip It
Steve’s breakdown: Yeah, that was the headline we found about Moderna. This is the second time we’ve talked about the company. (see below) I mean, nobody had heard of the company until last year and this year they a blowing it image-wise at every turn.
CAMBRIDGE, MA: It’s unfair to expect every CEO serving on the front lines of the global COVID-19 pandemic to be downright Churchhillian.
Moderna chief Stéphane Bancel, though, is the anti-Churchill, a person who fails to instill much confidence in the future.
Bancel peered into his crystal ball on Nov. 30 and predicted that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine may not be up to snuff when it comes to fending off the Omicron variant.
Where is the can-do leadership that America expects from its corporate leadership? It’s certainly not in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of the heavily subsized biotech.
On the effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine against Omicron: Bancel told the Financial Times: “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists that I’ve talked to… are like, ‘This is not going to be good.'”
That indecisive word salad triggered a global market sell-off.
The point is that nobody, at this juncture, really knows much about Omicron. Reports say that it will take weeks of scientific study and testing to figure that out.
That’s why Bancel should not have speculated about the effectiveness of vaccines vis-a-vis Omicron.
The media already are in full fear-mongering mode about the new variant. He just added more fuel to that fire.
The Moderna chief should look for inspiration in America’s WWII propaganda.
The United States Office of War Information used the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” slogan on posters to warn the military and civilians to watch what they say because German spies circulated in the US and Nazi submarines patrolled the east coast.
Patriotic companies like Canada’s Seagram Distillers printed up a variant of the slogan (e.g., “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships”) signs and distributed them to bars.
Moderna’s crackerjack team should follow suit with its own updated propaganda variant. It should print a “Loose Lips Sink Markets” poster and hang it in Bancel’s office.
It might also limit rein in the chatty chief, who should focus more on Moderna’s lab work than on the media.
Churchill reincarnated. Following Bancel’s torpedoing of global stock markets, the co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, nailed Omicron PR.
“Our message is: Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same; Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,” Sahin told the Wall Street Journal. That’s a perfect response.
BioNTech, which co-developed a COVID vaccine with Pfizer, has already started testing to see whether Omicron can infect people who have been vaccinated. The testing will continue for at least two more weeks.
You can bet Sahin will deliver the results in a cool and dispassionate fashion, which is exactly what the worried world needs.