Newswire: Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, developed the scientific approach to the coronavirus vaccine

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett


Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease doctor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed the African American community’s fears of accepting the new coronavirus vaccine.
“To my African American brothers and sisters … this vaccine that you’re gonna be taking was developed by an African American woman. And that is just a fact,” Dr. Fauci proclaimed during a recent National Urban League event.
Dr. Fauci noted that Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black woman, has been at the forefront of the vaccine process. He added that it is vital to recognize the U.S.’s history of racism that’s led to great mistrust from the Black community.
Dr. Fauci exclaimed that the vaccine is safe. “The very vaccine that’s one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels – 94 to 95 percent efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100 percent 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 stated.
Dr. Corbett, 34, is an accomplished research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC).
According to her biography, Dr. Corbett received a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a secondary major in Sociology, in 2008 from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar and an NIH undergraduate scholar.
She then enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014.
A viral immunologist by training, Dr. Corbett is known for using her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness.
Appointed to the VRC in 2014, her work focuses on developing novel coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Corbett has 15 years of expertise studying dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, and coronaviruses.
Along with her research activities, Dr. Corbett is an active member of the NIH Fellows Committee and an avid advocator of STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community.
“History books will celebrate the name and achievements of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the Black Woman who was the leader in developing the COVID-19 Vaccine,” Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of Transformative Justice Coalition, wrote on Twitter.
“She developed the specific scientific approach to mitigating the coronavirus.”
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African Americans, who make up a large percentage of the more than 290,000 U.S. residents to die from the virus.
One study released by the COVID Collaborative, the NAACP and UnidosUS revealed that 14 percent of Black Americans trust a vaccine will be safe, and 18 percent trust it will be effective.
Much of the concern stems from pervasive racism in medical research and healthcare, notably the 1932 Tuskegee syphilis experiment. “I would say to people who are vaccine-hesitant that you’ve earned the right to ask the questions that you have around these vaccines and this vaccine development process,” Dr. Corbett told CNN.
“Trust, especially when it has been stripped from people, has to be rebuilt in a brick-by-brick fashion. And so, what I say to people first 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.”

Newswire: Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses the impact and severity of COVID-19 disparities in African Americans

Dr. Anthony Fauci

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

During a 30-minute interview with BlackPressUSA that was streamed live over Facebook, YouTube, and http://www.BlackPressUSA.com, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke of the importance of convincing African Americans to participate in clinical trials. He also said that school re-openings should depend mainly upon the location and the infection rate in a given area.
Fauci also said a viable coronavirus vaccine is likely only a few months away.
“The fundamental principle is that we should try as best as we possibly can to get children back to school because we know the psychological aspect of that and the unintended consequences for mothers and fathers who may need to stop working, so we should try to get back to school,” Dr. Fauci said when asked about the impact of the pandemic on the upcoming school year.
“However, paramount needs to be the safety, health, and welfare of children, teachers, and families,” Dr. Fauci added.
“We live in a big country. Some places have low incidents and can open schools while some are high. Some areas rate of infection is so high where it’s not prudent to open schools. You don’t want to endanger their health.”
A member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Fauci has at times found himself at odds with President Donald Trump. For example, earlier this year, the president announced that he would withdraw U.S. funding and support for the World Health Organization (WHO). However, Dr. Fauci told BlackPressUSA that he still maintains a close relationship with the organization.
“I still work closely with the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Fauci. “I’m on a weekly phone call with them, and I signed a memorandum of understanding. We’re all in with the WHO.”
During the interview, which included National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., Dr. Fauci also demonstrated the proper way to wear a facemask. “Early on, there was a shortage of masks because we didn’t want to take masks away from health providers who needed them,” Dr. Fauci remarked. “It’s easy to get a cloth mask now.”
Dr. Fauci explained further that, “when there are droplets when someone sneezes or coughs, you [are protected]. You can take it and wash it with soap and water or stick it in the washing machine.”
Addressing the disparities surrounding COVID-19 and other illnesses, Dr. Fauci pointed to many African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans occupying essential jobs that provide employees with little — or no — protection.
“On the one hand, there’s a greater opportunity and risk of getting infected, but even as important is that once you get infected, you have prevalence and incidence of co-morbidities that make it more likely you’ll get a severe outcome from the infection,” Dr. Fauci noted.
“Those co-morbidities are like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and lung disease. It’s very clear that African Americans have a higher incidence, and the reality is that you suffer more.”
The hospitalization rates per 100,000 people are stunning when comparing African Americans and Caucasians, Dr. Fauci proclaimed. “In many respects, it’s unacceptable that it should be that way,” he said, noting that the hospitalization rate per 100,000 African Americans stands at 247, compared to 53 per 100,000 whites.
“In other words, that’s almost five times the chance of getting hospitalized even though African Americans comprise just 13 percent of the [U.S.] population,” Dr. Fauci observed. “That’s more than something we need to deal with.”
Dr. Fauci added that there are five fundamental things everyone could do to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Wear a mask, avoid crowds of more than 10, keep a distance of at least six feet, locations should seriously consider closing bars and getting people who go to bars to stop or do it outside, and wash hands frequently either with soap and water or alcohol Purell.”
Clinical trials are vital, Dr. Fauci said. “We hope that we will have an effective vaccine by the end of the year, which means that as we get into 2021, we want to distribute it for those who could benefit,” he added.
“We need to spend extra effort to protect African Americans, and the way you find out if the vaccine is effective is the enrollment in a vaccine trial. It would be a terrible shame if African Americans stayed away from clinical trials, and they didn’t provide for themselves the vaccine that could protect them.”
Dr. Fauci suggested that he wears a mask everywhere goes and demanded that doing so shouldn’t be about politics. “This is about protecting each other. We’re all in this together,” Dr. Fauci said.
“I’m pleased to see that we now have the president talking about wearing a mask where he didn’t before, and the vice president wears a mask everywhere he goes. We’ve got to pull together.”