Believe in Black women!
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a doctor with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and is leading efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. She is currently working with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who spoke of her importance to the vaccine development.
“When they then say that the vaccine is safe and effective, I will tell you all that I, myself, will be perfectly comfortable in taking the vaccine and I will recommend it to my family,” Fauci said Tuesday, Dec. 8th at a National Urban League event.
Corbett’s work started in January when researchers first learned of reports of a unique illness similar to pneumonia. It was then that doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland began hunting for a vaccine. Vaccines take a long time to develop, the process taking up to two years at times, and while they may not necessarily be helpful at the beginning of an outbreak, they can prove vital later down the line, the NY Times reports.
Dr. Corbett leads the team in charge of those efforts. They are currently using the SARS vaccine template since the Coronavirus comes from the same family, swapping genetic code to make it more palatable for the current virus in a strategy that Corbett calls “plug and play.”
Now Corbett and her team have begun running the first human trials of the vaccine in Seattle, just 66 days after the initial viral sequence release, which she says is “a testament to rapid vaccine development for emerging diseases.”
The mRNA-1273 vaccine is relying on volunteers to test. Participants will receive two doses of the vaccine that are monitored 28 days apart to see how well the medicine “stimulates an immune response to a protein on the virus’s surface. Phase 1 will only test on 45 patients, but the second phase of the trial will require many participants, Forbes reports.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority. This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal,” said Fauci, head of the NIAID.
According to Dr. Corbett’s bio, she is “a viral immunologist by training” whose “research interests entail elucidating mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity as they pertain to vaccine development.” In other words, she’s the right woman leading the charge. To reduce people’s fears and mistrust of the vaccine, she urges the community to know she is on their side.
“Trust, especially when it has been stripped from people, has to be rebuilt in a brick-by-brick fashion,” she told reporters. “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.”
In 2008, Corbett graduated from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences and another sociology. She was also an NIH scholar and a Meyerhoff Scholar. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.
Thank you for all you’re doing, Dr. Corbett and thank you to all of those working on the frontlines.
Talk about Black girl magic!
Photo Courtesy of Timothy Nwachukwu/The New York Times