If you’ve had or plan on getting a COVID-19 vaccine, thank Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. The 34-year-old Black Shero research scientist was a major player in developing the Moderna vaccine, which has an approximately 95% efficacy rate against contracting Covid. The rate is even higher against diseases that often accompany Covid.
In fact, Dr. Corbett is the lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research at the National Institute for Health, thanks to her focus on vaccine immune response. For the last year, Dr. Corbett has been part of a frontline team battling the virus that has killed over 500,000 Americans. She earns accolades not just from grateful citizens, but also from such scientific hard-hitters as Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the White House’s Coronavirus Response Team.
Dr. Fauci regularly addresses racism in healthcare. He aims to assuage fears among Black Americans who are hesitant to take the vaccine. The medical community is battling a history of mistreatment by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers. “The vaccine that you’re going to be taking was developed by an African American woman,” Fauci said in an interview. “And that is just a fact.”
Not a hidden figure
Dr. Corbett also recognizes the importance of being a visible figure to the Black community. As a young participant in a program offering summer experiences for economically disadvantaged students (Project SEED), she was awarded the opportunity to study chemistry at the University of North Carolina. Once there, she parlayed her hard work into a full academic scholarship to the University of Maryland. Dr. Corbett has been studying vaccine responses for the last six years.
Regarding her contributions to the vaccine, “I felt like it was necessary to be seen and to not be a hidden figure so to speak,” Corbett said in an interview. “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.”
Dr. Corbett saw the 1-year goal of developing a response to COVID as a challenge. Creating a safe and effective vaccine wasn’t easy. Yet she was willing to step up, stating, “It was certainly doable if all the things and all the pieces of the puzzle came together.”
Today, 1 in 6 adults in the United States have received the vaccine, and last week set a record, with over 3 million adults receiving a dose in one day. Additionally, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for people ages 16 and up. To schedule a vaccine in Oklahoma, register at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov/