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Opinion | The Long Road to Successful Covid Vaccines

To the Editor:

Re “Decades of Discoveries Before ‘Miraculous’ Sprint to a Vaccine” (front page, Jan. 16):

I was riveted by Gina Kolata and Benjamin Mueller’s article about the years of research that ultimately led to Covid-19 vaccines. The twists, dead ends, chance encounters and aha moments read like a thriller, but the authors also convey the painstaking, lengthy, often anonymous slog that scientists endure to make these discoveries.

Readers who might waver on the necessity of international collaboration, generous funding of basic research or open exchange of scientific information would do well to take this article to heart. And thanks to the authors’ lucid explanations, I finally have a reasonable grasp of mRNA, coronavirus “spikes” and how these vaccines actually work.

Wendy A. Horwitz
The writer is an adjunct instructor of bioethics and medical humanities at Penn State University.

To the Editor:

There was an egregious omission in your otherwise informative article on the science behind the mRNA vaccines. Before anyone could even consider using any RNA for therapeutics, there needed to be a method to make large amounts of any RNA at will. Such RNAs are made routinely using a method called in vitro transcription, in which an enzyme copies a section of DNA into RNA.

The method used both by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech relies on fundamental studies pioneered by F. William Studier and his late colleague John Dunn at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. Without their efforts, there would be no mRNA therapeutics and certainly no vaccine. While all the subsequent steps were important, Dr. Studier and Dr. Dunn deserve credit for making the vaccine possible in the first place.

Venki Ramakrishnan
Cambridge, England
The writer, a senior scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and is a former president of the Royal Society, the British science academy.

To the Editor:

Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic and the assault on medicine and science by Donald Trump and many Republicans, most of the Covid-19 news published by The Times has been depressing. But the remarkable story about how mRNA vaccines were made — that a group of scientists would labor in obscurity for so long in order to create this miracle — was incredibly inspirational.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

I applaud Gina Kolata and Benjamin Mueller for writing this wonderful article and hope many other readers will appreciate and be inspired by this amazing scientific odyssey.

Michael Fine
Laguna Beach, Calif.
The writer is a retired internist and geriatrician.

To the Editor:

Re “Government to Provide 400 Million N95 Masks” (news article, Jan. 20):

The Biden administration finally acting to provide high-quality masks to Americans is like being given a parachute after you’ve already jumped from the plane: too little, too late.

We knew at the pandemic’s onset that masks were vital in stopping Covid-19. Now, in one of the worst moments of the pandemic, with daily cases in the hundreds of thousands, the White House is finally moving to distribute masks? Isn’t widespread mask distribution, along with increasing hospital capacity in preparation for future waves, something that should have been undertaken long ago — before the Omicron variant?

A year into his term, President Biden’s campaign promise of transforming our country’s pandemic response from reprehensible to respectable has failed. The same confusing C.D.C. guidance, bungled timing and lack of foresight that plagued the previous administration have permeated the transition of power. If our current state is reflective of the best efforts of the “adults in the room,” we should all be fearful for our children.

Gabe Downey
Southfield, Mich.

To the Editor:

Re “Starbucks Won’t Require Vaccinations for Workers” (Business, Jan. 20):

One of the first things I asked my hairdresser before I went back to the salon after two years was “Is everyone vaccinated?” Her response was, “Of course.”

After reading that Starbucks is ending its plan to require worker vaccination and testing, I knew I would not walk into a Starbucks until the pandemic is over. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, I was hoping that many health-conscious businesses would continue to require employee vaccinations.

Who wants to wait 15 minutes indoors for a coffee served by an unvaccinated person? Not me.

Shame on Starbucks.

Anna Sterne
Santa Barbara, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Scales Back Policy Plans and Blames G.O.P. Obstruction” (front page, Jan. 20):

House and Senate Democrats would be smart to vote to accept a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better, including expansion of the Affordable Care Act, universal pre-K and various climate change provisions. All of them are popular proposals.

Passing this version would give Democrats something to run on in the midterms and put Republicans who vote against it on the defensive. Democrats could then schedule test votes on remaining proposals in the Build Back Better wish list that also poll well, giving them more ammo for midterms.

If a slimmed-down Build Back Better bill passes, it would also help ensure that the midterms focus on real issues, not bogus ones like critical race theory or the evils of wokeness. It may also be the Democrats’ only chance of retaining the House and the Senate. Over to you, Dems.

Fred Peal

To the Editor:

Re “D.A. in Atlanta Raising Stakes Against Trump” (front page, Jan. 21):

Donald Trump’s highly inappropriate phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger — wherein the former president pressured and bullied Mr. Raffensperger in an attempt to push him to “find 11,780 votes” as an essential element of a failed coup d’état — is finally getting the attention from a prosecutor that it deserves.

Throw the book at him, Fani Willis, Fulton County district attorney.

Not for revenge, or for personal or political animus, but because the fate of our democracy may hang in the balance.

Mark Keller
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

Re “They Voted to Impeach. It’s Still Costing Them” (front page, Jan. 6):

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump should abandon the sinking ship of the Republican Party, and leave it to the Trumpists, who are now its only constituency. The Trumpists may be a substantial population, but they are no majority, and all non-Trumpists need a new home.

These representatives, plus Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, at least, should form a new party, call it the Constitution Party and compete against the Trumpists not in primaries but in general elections. If they win only a few seats in Congress, they will wield power in the close balance between the other parties.

Most of all, they should rejoin democracy by leaving the Republican Party, and lead the way for other candidates and voters to do the same. They are the only people who can lead this effort, and such leadership has never been more direly needed.

Ron Meyers
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Why Can’t We Turn Away From the N.F.L.?,” by Kurt Streeter (Sports of The Times, Jan. 18):

Good Lord!! We have enough conflicts and controversies right now! Let me watch my football in peace. It is the only thing we have left.

Daniel Dziedzic
Rochester Hills, Mich.

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