Are Covid-19 Vaccines a Failure? That is the view of some of the media in the face of breakthrough infections and new virus varieties. It is also wrong. People who have been vaccinated are more prone to mild infections than health officials initially expected. But the syringes still offer strong protection against serious diseases, and the mRNA vaccines in particular – those from Pfizer / BioNTech and those from Moderna – can be adapted to new variants.
More importantly, the vaccine drama has obscured a larger and untold story that is the great promise of mRNA technology. Messenger RNA has shown tremendous potential for medical applications beyond Covid for other infectious diseases, as well as for vaccines and treatments for conditions ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis. Its development is a story of scientific persistence and chance that deserves more attention, with an American immigrant from communist Hungary playing a prominent role.