The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal, but the end is in sight. A massive vaccine rollout is planned to begin soon, and it may not have been possible without the contributions of Kizzmekia Corbett, a scientist who worked on one of the two COVID-19 vaccines that are being prepared for distribution.
Corbett was on the team of scientists from the National Institute of Health (NIH) that worked with pharmaceutical company Moderna to create a vaccine. CNBC reported that the vaccine that is on track to be approved soon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use.
Infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci praised Corbett in a recent forum hosted by the National Urban League. When he was asked to comment on “the input of African American scientists in the vaccine process,” Fauci applauded Corbett’s work in helping to develop the vaccine.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett has an impressive resume
“The very vaccine that’s one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels — 94 to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe — that vaccine was actually developed in my institute’s vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett,” he said (via ABC News).
Fauci continued, “Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine.”
The Washington Post noted that Corbett’s impressive academic performance in high school earned her a full ride to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. While in school, Corbett spent summers working in laboratories, including an internship at the NIH. Per her LinkedIn profile, she then went on to earn a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UNC-Chapel Hill. In 2011, she began working with the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett never thought she'd work on a coronavirus vaccine
Corbett never anticipated working on such a vaccine. “The reason that I started to work in coronavirus was not to ever develop a vaccine, but really to have such a strong understanding in vaccine immune responses that we could potentially develop one,” she told ABC News.
Corbett explained that the team was told “to buckle up” in January when the virus began to circulate. She made headlines in March when she and other scientists met with Trump.
Corbett is aware of the example she is setting for young scientists and people of color. “I felt like it was necessary to be seen and to not be a hidden figure so to speak,” she said. “I felt that it was important to do that because the level of visibility that it would have to younger scientists and also to people of color who have often worked behind the scenes and essentially [who have] done the dirty work for these large efforts toward a vaccine. This person who looks like you has been working on this for several years and I also wanted it to be visible because I wanted people to understand that I stood by the work that I’d done for so long as well.”
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