Kizzmekia Corbett, an NIH immunologist leading the charge in developing a coronavirus vaccine, has suggested that the pandemic could be a ‘genocide’ against black people. The 34-year-old researcher, who is with the Vaccine Research Center, a division of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), implied in a tweet that doctors would deliberately let black Americans die as they would be denied ventilators in case of shortage.
Referring to a Bloomberg article on March 29, she wrote: “I tweet for the people who will die when doctors has [sic] to choose who gets the last ventilator and ultimately… who lives.” “The poor. And, while the article doesn’t explicitly say it… the black.”
Making unprofessional social media posts about sensitive government work can violate federal ethical guidelines, according to U.S. media. The Department of Health and Human Services, which has accused her of sharing controversial tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic, has begun reviewing her social media accounts.
After her Twitter posts were shared by Fox News Friday night, Corbett switched her account to private. Reports said she had earlier disagreed with Surgeon General Jerome Adams after he asked black Americans to avoid cigarettes and alcohol in order to protect their health during the epidemic.
In a response, Corbett wrote: “Black ppl are not dying more because of their behaviors that is just a cop out to adjust accountability”.
The viral immunologist has been studying coronaviruses like SARS and MERS since she arrived at the National Institutes of Health in 2014. An NIH scholar and also a Meyerhoff Scholar, she earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.
Her research interests entail elucidating mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity as they pertain to vaccine development.
Last month, Corbett and her team began running the first human trials of the vaccine in Seattle, just 66 days after the initial viral sequence release, which according to her is “a testament to rapid vaccine development for emerging diseases.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., recently praised Corbett on Twitter, saying she was “leading the charge around the clock to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. The world owes you and your team a debt of gratitude.”
In spite of the controversy surrounding some of Corbett’s tweets, worrying data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 30 percent of COVID-19 patients are African American, even though African Americans make up around 13 percent of the population of the U.S.
In the virus epicenter New York, figures released Friday by the city’s Health Department show that black people are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white people.
Analysts have also raised concerns about how coronavirus has taken a hugely disproportionate toll on people of color, blaming the disparities on factors such as access to health care and types of jobs that tend to vary based on race.
Governor Andrew Cuomo at his daily press briefing Wednesday said he would investigate these racial disparities in coronavirus deaths.
“Why are more African Americans and Latinos affected?”
“We’re seeing this around the country. Comorbidity, I understand that, but I think there’s something more to it. You know, it always seems that the poorest people pay the highest price. Why is that? Whatever the situation is.”
At the moment, more than 37,000 people in the U.S. have died from the deadly virus while over 700,000 have been infected.