Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett: 5 Things To Know About Leading COVID-19 Expert Who ‘Invented’ Vaccine

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett's tireless work and research in developing a COVID-19 vaccine is saving millions of lives. Here's what you should know about the young, talented scientist.

She’s a pioneer in new vaccine technology and one of the people attempting to bring coronavirus to a halt. Now, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett will bring her talents to Harvard’s  T.H. Chan School of Public Health as an assistant professor in Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Here’s what else you need to know about Dr. Corbett:

1. She’s A Research Fellow At The NIAID Vaccine Research Center

Corbett has worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the National Institute of Health) as a researcher for six years. She’s met with leaders in the health industry and world leaders, including current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. At the very onset of the pandemic in the United States, she was already in the lab working on a vaccine solution. Now, she’ll head the Coronaviruses & Other Relevant Emerging Infectious Diseases (CoreID) Lab at Harvard to continue that significant work.

Kizzmekia Corbett Joe Biden
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett chats with President Joe Biden at the NIH, 2/11/21 (Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock)

2. Her Research Helped Develop The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

It’s not just Dolly Parton we should thank for the Moderna jab. On March 3, 2020, just 122 Americans had tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen days later, Corbett and her team had already begun stage one clinical trials for a vaccine. It was the fastest progress a scientist had ever made toward a possible vaccine.

3. She’s Earned Praise From Dr. Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked during a December 2020 forum by the National Urban League about the input Black scientists had on developing the coronavirus vaccine. He immediately praised Corbett’s tireless work. “”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,” Fauci told the forum.

“Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine,” he continued. “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.”

4. She’s Fighting Against Vaccine ‘Hesitancy’

Now that the three coronavirus vaccines are here and available to most Americans, Corbett is now trying to persuade hesitant adults to actually get the jab. A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 61% of unvaccinated Americans don’t plan on getting the shot. Corbett told AP that she understands why some are scared.

While the speedy development of the vaccines is “historic and it is brag-worthy,” she says, “we really should have started the conversations very early about what went into it. [There] are things that even I can’t even answer. But what I can say is that we’re doing everything we can to make sure we can answer it as soon as possible.”

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett Donald Trump Anthony Fauci
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett shows her research to Dr. Anthony Fauci and then-President Donald Trump, 3/3/20 (Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock)

5. She Wants Other Women To Follow Her Lead

Corbett told Black Enterprise that she tries to stay true to herself, separate from her work. And that’s important for other women to do, no matter their industry. “I am Christian. I’m black. I am Southern, I’m an empath. I’m feisty, sassy, and fashionable. That’s kind of how I describe myself. I would say that my role as a scientist is really about my passion and purpose for the world and for giving back to the world,” Corbett said.

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