Protect your community: Meet Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

Last updated: Jul 8, 2021
Getting vaccinated can help stop the COVID-19 spread in Black communities, which have infection rates three times that of White communities.

“I understand the intricate interlacing of science and health, particularly for disparities, and particularly for people of color. It’s near and dear to my heart.”

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and one of the scientists on the team that developed the Moderna mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. She received a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Just over a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, several variants and the virus itself continue to circulate across the country. The good news: More than half of California’s adults are doing their part to halt the spread of the virus by getting at least one vaccine shot.

However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that California residents – especially those in Black communities – are safe.

Important reasons to get vaccinated

Black populations are three times more likely than White populations to get COVID-19, making vaccine acceptance a key weapon in the fight against the virus. In California, the Black population has accounted for 8% of the state’s deaths but only makes up 6 % of the population.

Several factors put California’s population – including Black communities – at higher risk for becoming infected with COVID-19.

These may include:

  • Living in a multigenerational home
  • Being an essential worker
  • Difficulty accessing health care, often due to discrimination

“I have studied health disparities since I was in college,” Dr. Corbett said in an interview in Nature. “I’m a double major in sociology. I understand the intricate interlacing of science and health, particularly for disparities, and particularly for people of color. So, it’s near and dear to my heart. It’s actually the reason vaccine development is important to me, and is where I chose to take my viral-immunology career.”

Vaccines are important not only to prevent serious illness. They also have the potential to help narrow the health disparity gap between communities of color and White communities, especially when it comes to infectious diseases.

“I could never sleep at night if I developed anything – if any product of my science came out – and it did not equally benefit the people that look like me,” Dr. Corbett has said. “Period.”

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