Dr. Fauci Spotlights Young Black Woman Who Helped Develop COVID-19 Vaccine, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

During an event hosted by the National Urban League, Dr. Anthony Fauci highlighted Dr. Corbett as a lead scientist behind one of the vaccines’ development.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is attempting to quell skepticism among Black Americans about taking the COVID-19 vaccine, while also raising awareness that one of the scientists at the forefront of the Moderna vaccine's development is a Black woman.

During an event hosted by the National Urban League on Tuesday, Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leading Infectious diseases expert, emphasized the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. He also took the time to spotlight 34-year-old Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett as a lead scientist behind one of the vaccines’ development. 

“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," Dr. Fauci said.

Corbett received a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a secondary major in Sociology, in 2008 from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, then got her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014 at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to a report by CNN, Corbett is lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research at the National Institute of Health, and part of a team that worked with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop one of the two vaccines expected to receive emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month — the other being from Pfizer. (The FDA may grant emergency authorization to Pfizer by Friday evening.)

"So, the first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you're going to be taking was developed by an African American woman. And that is just a fact,” Dr. Fauci said during the virtual event.

Decades of structural inequality have made the coronavirus pandemic even deadlier for Black Americans. But a study released in November by the COVID Collaborative, the NAACP, and UnidosUS, found that only 14% of Black Americans trust that a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and 18% trust that it will be effective. According to a recent Gallup poll, 50% of Americans said in September they'd be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. By October, the number had risen to 58%.

Fauci said on Tuesday that it was important to acknowledge the country's history of racism in medical research, which created mistrust among some Black Americans.

Corbett herself also addressed vaccine hesitancy while speaking with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the podcast "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction."

"Trust, especially when it has been stripped from people, has to be rebuilt in a brick-by-brick fashion," she said. "And so, what I say to people firstly is that I empathize, and then secondly is that I'm going to do my part in laying those bricks. And I think that if everyone on our side, as physicians and scientists, went about it that way, then the trust would start to be rebuilt."