Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a 34-year-old Black woman, has been at the forefront of the vaccine process. On Tuesday, during a National Urban League event, Dr. Fauci discussed Dr. Corbett's involvement with the treatment and said it was vital to recognize the U.S.’s history of racism in medical research and how that has cultivated mistrust with some Black people. He also emphasized the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“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,” Fauci said, per CNN.
Dr. Corbett is the National Institute of Health’s leading scientist for COVID-19 vaccine research and is on the team that collaborated with Moderna on its vaccine, which might be given emergency use authorization by the FDA. Pfizer has also developed a vaccine.
“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,” Dr. Fauci added. “And that is just a fact.”
COVID-19 has hit Black Americans and people of color harder than other demographics. Apprehension about the vaccine is high: a 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 their concern stems from pervasive racism in medical research and healthcare.
Dr. Corbett told CNN she’s witnessed vaccine hesitancy in Black communities and that it will take time to restore trust in medical institutions. “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."
She continued, “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 firstly 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.”