Speaker Series at N.C. A&T Takes on COVID-19 Questions and Concerns with Immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett

By Tonya D. Dixon / 03/03/2021

Editor's Note: A recording of the conversation will be available online for a limited time.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (March 3, 2021) – In an engaging conversation that felt more like a peep inside a Zoom call with best friends, North Carolina A&T State University hosted the virtual Chancellor’s Speaker Series: “Race to Vaccinate,” March 2, featuring viral immunologist and COVID-19 vaccine designer Kizzmekia Corbett, along with actress and producer Tia Mowry-Hardrict.

More than 3,000 viewed the hour-long conversation that touched on vaccine trustworthiness, process and development, herd immunity, variants, conspiracy theories, future inoculations and more, particularly in relation to the African American community.

While COVID-19 has shown significant penetration in black and brown communities, trust and vaccine hesitancy is a pervading issue. Years of inequality and medical abuse, such as the Tuskegee Experiment have compounded the issue. Corbett addressed them with understanding and concern.

“I’m a black woman first. I get it,” she said. Moreover, Corbett noted her ability to see and understand the data, leading the team that developed one of the vaccines, understanding how the Federal Drug Administration was transparent and had African American team members as reviewers and the notion that the health of the black community is vital to the overall health of the entire country are points that are among the many reasons to trust.

The question of vaccine development and the seemingly unheard-of speed by which it was developed and disseminated is a major concern. Corbett expertly explained the process and timeline, which includes years of previous research and work.

“The pre-clinical stage is left out of the story…Before the vaccine gets into the arm of any one human being is the pre-clinical stage and that is what I have been doing for the last six years at my job,” said Corbett. “The clock starts when the virus is identified, but because coronaviruses are a large family of viruses,…we studied the ‘cousins’ of coronavirus for the last six years. We were able to develop a vaccine during the pre-clinical stages for one of the coronavirus cousins when we saw this was a coronavirus last January. We said we know exactly what to do because we’ve done this before.”

Corbett also addressed the concern of the vaccine injecting the actual virus into the body, which she says is completely inaccurate. Additional questions included new variants, and conspiracy theories surrounding infertility and even whether there will be a need for future boosters.

In order to address all unanswered questions, the university partnered with Old North State Medical Society, one of the oldest medical societies for African American Physicians in the United States, and attendees were invited to visit a special site to get professional responses.

Media Contact Information: tddixon1@ncat.edu