Th competition among corporations and nation-states to develop, test, and distribute, the state-of-the-art Covid-19 vaccines has become conflated with a scientific argument as to the best way to go about creating immunity to viruses such as the one at issue (or to the bundle of “variants” now at issue).
The traditional way to develop a vaccine is to use deactivated or attentuated pathogens in order, at low risk, to excite the host immunological system. The idea is as old as the late 18th century’s debates over smallpox.
The newer way of developing a vaccine, though, called the mRNA method, is less direct. It involves the generation of genetic material that teaches cells within the host’s bloodstream to make a protein that in turn triggers the immune response.
Critics of the mRNA method have focused on the issue of whether the injected materials target the right cells within the host body. Some companies, and some countries, have pursued more traditional approaches.
In Pill Form:
The most successful vaccines, those from both Pfizer and Moderna, employ the mRNA method. From a Big Picture point of view, responses to the pandemic have created a “natural experiment” in which the newer method seems in the process of establishing its value.