The Coronavirus has killed 1.62 million people worldwide, and an African American woman is one of two scientists leading the vaccination developments.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the nation’s leading expert on the Coronavirus, sang the praises of Kizzmekia Corbett during a forum hosted by the National Urban League.
“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.”
Corbett’s role is one of huge significance as the African American community continues to struggle with trusting the government and the drug administration.
For generations, Blacks have been used as test dummies without consent for many medical studies; including the highly-documented Tuskegee Experiment in 1932 and the unlawful distribution of cells from Henrietta Lacks in 1951.
The Tuskegee Experiment consisted of over 600 men being unlawfully injected with Syphilis, which resulted in long-term disabilities and eventually death. Many of the men also passed the disease to their spouses and children.
In the latter case of Lacks, the wife and mother had her cells distributed without her consent and shared with other scientists. The HeLa cells line, named for Lacks, is considered one of the major scientific achievements of the 20th century. Lacks’ cells were used for over 30 years without any knowledge by her or her descendants.
The wrongdoings by those in the health profession play a huge role in the decisions of Blacks and lead many to question whether they should take the recent COVID vaccine.
But Dr. Faucci says that having Corbett at the forefront of the COVID research should help the African American community feel more at ease.
“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,” Fauci said. “And that is just a fact.”
Corbett also knows the importance of her being an African American scientist and says that it was one of the many reasons why she decided to come forward.
“I felt like it was necessary to be seen and to not be a hidden figure so to speak,” she shared. “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.”
The first round of U.S. vaccines began Monday in New York City, and has been designated for the elderly and first responders.
It is still too soon to determine how the African American community will respond, but Corbett’s work on the vaccine is definitely a step in the right direction.