Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, African American scientist, credited for key work on coronavirus vaccine

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett (Credit: American Society for Microbiology)

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an African-American scientist, is garnering praise for her crucial work on one of the coronavirus vaccines that will play an important role in turning the tide of the crippling, historic global COVID-19 pandemic.

Corbett, 34, works as a viral immunologist at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center (VRC). Her specialty is developing novel coronavirus vaccines, including mRNA-127, which targets the novel coronavirus. 

Corbett’s team designed the vaccine that Moderna submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. An FDA committee will hold a public hearing to review Moderna’s data before approving use of the vaccine.

RELATED: FDA says preliminary analysis confirms effectiveness, safety of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

A day after the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus shots, the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. 

A panel of outside experts is expected to recommend the formula on Thursday, with the FDA’s green light coming soon thereafter.

The Moderna vaccine was more than 94% effective overall at preventing COVID-19 illness, and 86% effective in people 65 and older. The FDA uncovered no major safety problems. Side effects can include fever, fatigue and aches as the vaccine revs up the immune system.

The FDA found no serious allergic reactions in the Moderna study. About 1.5% of vaccine recipients and 1.1% who got dummy shots reported possible smaller, “hypersensitivity” reactions.

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Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech's shots are so-called mRNA vaccines. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there is no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

Corbett previously tweeted about the similarities between the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, saying, “Science already won.”

Another weapon against the outbreak can’t come soon enough: The number of dead in the U.S. passed a staggering 300,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, with about 2,400 people now dying per day on average.

Corbett graduated from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in 2008. Shen then graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in 2014.

This Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.