Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett: an influential scientist in the field of vaccine development
A huge step forward was made recently in the fight against COVID-19. Two vaccines have been authorized for immediate administration across the country: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. This was achieved through Operation Warp Speed (OPW) launched in March of 2020. OPW is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the Department of Defense (DoD). OPW’s goal has been to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with initial doses available by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
While many scientists and researchers have taken part in developing COVID-19 vaccines to be safe for public use, one, in particular, stands out. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institute of Health, has been instrumental in the development of Moderna's vaccine.
Dr. Corbett, a 34-year-old black woman who earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina, worked with fellow researchers on creating Moderna’s vaccine. The good news of Moderna’s vaccine, which is more than 94% effective overall at preventing COVID-19 illness, and 86% effective in people 65 and older, couldn’t have come sooner as the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continues to rise at an increasingly rapid rate.
In March of 2020, Dr. Corbett was a member of the group of NIH scientists who met with President Donald Trump and staff to discuss the novel coronavirus which had only begun to emerge in the United States. She took note of the importance of her meeting among people of color and young scientists alike and has been quoted, "I felt like it was necessary to be seen and to not be a hidden figure, so to speak. 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’s work has not only saved many lives but provided much-needed representation in spaces where diversity is scarce. In the United States, areas such as technology, science, engineering, and mathematics have far fewer women and people of color than other career fields. Through her hard work and dedication to health and science, Dr. Corbett serves as a role model for all young women and people of color, as well as young scientists, and her notable contribution to the fight again COVID-19 is an accomplishment worth recognizing.