Meet Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, A Mind Behind the Vaccine


(Photo credit: National Institutes of Health)

At this point, every TV in America has become well-acquainted with the easily recognizable face of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been a familiar face since the 80s since his appointment under President Reagan, however it is the Covid-19 pandemic that has officially made him one of the most globally recognized names of the year. While Dr. Fauci deserves every lick of credit for his handling of a truly disastrous situation under horrendous circumstances, it is not just him who has been instrumental in addressing the crisis. One such scientist who has been key in creating the Moderna vaccine is one Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an African-American woman whose contributions will have turned out to be one of the most imperative in defeating the coronavirus.


Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or as she prefers to be called, Kizzy, boasts the type of intelligence and record that makes people wonder how just one person could already be so accomplished. “I think my love for science and solving problems came from childhood. I was the student who did not leave a math problem unsolved,” she told CNN. When she was still just in high school, Kizzy was chosen to participate in Project Speed which is a program aimed at recognizing gifted minority students, allowing her to attend Chemistry lessons at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Throughout her journey, she would receive a full ride scholarship to the University of Maryland Baltimore County before earning her doctorate ambitions at Chapel Hill where she received a PhD in microbiology and immunology (ABC News). 


 As one of the National Institutes of Health’s leading scientists, Dr. Corbett is at the forefront of discovering the SARS-Cov-2 vaccine. This comes at a pivotal moment as the US Covid death toll just passed 300,000 fatalities, with the spread of the disease and misinformation on it consuming the globe. Parallel to that is the understandable distrust of the vaccine by some in the Black community, who have observed the systematic racism in government and are wary of government health initiatives as a result. In an interview with CNN, Kizzy addressed some of the concerns shared by many Americans.   “It [distrust of the vaccine] is most certainly an issue… and I think that what I would say to people who are vaccine hesitant is that you’ve earned the right to ask the questions that you’ve heard around these vaccines and this vaccine development process.” She adds on the skepticism expressed by those in the Black community, “And this overarching mistrust of the medical institution in general is something that is being highlighted now because of the dire circumstance of which we’re in. But it is not news to me, because I’m Black and I have a Black family and I am well-read on the history of injustice when it comes to medicine in the Black community.” However Kizzy is hopeful that the inequalities in the medical field will be fixed, saying “But what we need to do is decide that we’re going to take steps and, even beyond this pandemic, move in a direction to be more trustworthy.” Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett also points out that the responsibility to create a harmonious relationship between minorities and medical professionals falls upon those in the health field. “…the first step… is that the onus of this problem is not on them [the Black community] and their distrust, it is on us and our level of trustworthiness,” she states.


President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris may have won Person of the Year, but it is worth remembering that the health of humanity is on the backs of Kizzy and people like her. People who have worked tirelessly to not find, but create, the light at the end of the tunnel for the rest of us.