With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, news of its distribution in Bloomington has brought relief to many and concern to some members of marginalized communities. The City of Bloomington will offer both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines through Indiana University Health.
Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a 34-year-old Black woman, is the leader of the coronavirus vaccines and immunopathogenesis team at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) that made the Moderna vaccine.
However, Black people around the country are hesitant to get the new vaccine, largely due to the systemic racism present in the medical community. Corbett said she understands the reservations.
“Number one is that I get it,” Corbett said in an interview with CBS in January. “Number two is that take advantage of the level of transparency we are attempting such as FDA meetings and hearings being broadcast online and data coming out almost immediately.”
Corbett is also working with organizations encouraging Black people to take the vaccine.
“I’m proud of her for sure because that is another sister leading the way,” Dr. Tamara Dickerson said. “We need more people of color in medicine because it shows that someone understands your history and what you have been through.”
Dr. Dickerson said most people of color are not getting health care and the few who are are receiving it from people who are not aware of their own bias.
IU students of color who have already taken the Moderna vaccine said they were relieved after they found out who was behind the vaccine.
“I was skeptical about taking the vaccine because of what I was seeing online, but if I knew that it was a Black person, I would have been more willing to take it because I feel she’s not going to kill me,” IU graduate student Blessing Olafusi said. “Also, a lot of Black people I know are not taking the vaccine. So letting them know it was made by a fellow Black person helps them know that they are included.”
IU junior Antonia Walker, who is interested in going to medical school, said Kizzmekia is a great source of inspiration
“If I can be that representation like this woman is to me, then I want to be that representation for someone else,” Walker said. “Just to pass on the image that we deserve to be high in the race like everybody else.”
Representation is important in health care because it shows there are people involved who understand what you’ve gone through, Freeman A. Hrabowski III, University of Maryland-Baltimore County President, said in an interview with CBS.
“She can not be a hidden figure, She needs to be in textbooks,” he said. “Little girls need to see her — of all races. This is what’s possible.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote from Dr. Corbett.