Are Covid-19 vaccines a failure? That’s the view in some media quarters amid breakthrough infections and new virus variants. It’s also false. Vaccinated people are more prone to mild infections than public-health authorities initially anticipated. But the shots continue to provide strong protection against serious disease, and the mRNA vaccines in particular—Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s—are adaptable to new variants.
More important, the drama over vaccines has masked a bigger and untold story, which is the vast promise of mRNA technology. Messenger RNA has shown enormous potential for medical applications beyond Covid to other infectious diseases, as well as vaccines and treatments for conditions from cancer to multiple sclerosis. Its development is a tale of scientific perseverance and serendipity that deserves more attention, with a prominent role by an American immigrant from communist Hungary.