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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Staff Editorial: Women leading effort in vaccine development deserve recognition

   As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed across the world, the advancement in medicine is joined by another cause for celebration: female scientists leading the way in vaccine development. Their contributions to the field are reflected not only in the COVID-19 pandemic, but in how they lay the groundwork for future vaccines as well.

   Prior to COVID-19, the fastest developed vaccine was created in four years for the mumps disease in 1967. In less than a year, multiple COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for emergency usage in the United States providing a light at the end of the tunnel.

   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an overview of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine showed a 94.1 percent effectiveness and was recommended for those above the age of 18. 

   Moderna partnered with the National Institute of Health, with doctor Kizzmekia Corbett at the forefront of their efforts. As part of a team that researched previous coronaviruses, the team was able to lay the foundation for the novel coronavirus vaccine. Corbett’s invaluable contributions has led her to becoming an inarguably key player in ending COVID-19. 

   In a 2020 forum hosted by the National Urban League, Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci described Corbett as “an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine.”

   The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, also known as COMIRNATY, shares similar results to the Moderna vaccine. In clinical trials, the vaccine was shown to have a 95 percent effectiveness, and a consistently above 90 percent efficacy rate in preventing infections from children aged five to 15. 

   Doctor Kathrin Jansen worked as the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, leading over 700 researchers in the race to develop a vaccine. Jansen’s work in vaccines is not limited to COVID-19 either, as she previously led the development of the human papillomavirus vaccine and newer versions of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

  Both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine use mRNA, molecules whose research was pioneered by doctor Katalin Karikó in the 1970s. Her research, partnered with the work of immunologist Drew Weissman, came to fruition in 2005 and set the groundwork for future vaccine development.            

   Johnson and Johnson Jannsen’s viral vector vaccine is the third emergency authorized vaccine in the United States and was shown to have a 94 percent efficacy post booster shot. Hanneke Schuitemaker, a top viral vaccine researcher for the company, committed to searching for a potential vaccine with her team. 

   Other vaccine developer and distributers such as Novavax, Oxford University, and AstraZeneca have been led by female scientists as the push for vaccinations and updated vaccines increase with the developing circumstances of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron. 

   Nita Patel, one of the leading vaccine scientists at the Maryland biotech company, led development at Novavax with an almost exclusively female team. At Oxford, professor Sarah Gilbert and her team partnered with AstraZeneca, creating a vaccine in less than 65 days. 

      It is also important to note the acceleration of developing a vaccine during a pandemic through the merging of phases does not impact the scientific or ethical integrity and ensures vaccine safety as found by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. 

   The rise of female scientists is representative of a growing demand for women in the workforce. It also highlights the  important need for diversity in not only medicine, but all male dominated fields.

   Celebrating key contributors to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine is crucial in not only recognizing the minorities of the field, but also empowering future generations of women to continue being at the forefront of science.

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Staff Editorial: Women leading effort in vaccine development deserve recognition