NASHVILLE, TN — Since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Nashville in March, Meharry Medical College has been at the forefront of the fight to eliminate the spread of the virus and protect Black and Latino communities who have been disproportionately impacted. 

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry, has served as a key voice in national conversations around COVID-19 over

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, Meharry Medical College president/CEO

the last nine months. Beyond his work as a member of Metro Nashville’s COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Hildreth has also been named as a temporary voting member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The Committee met on Thursday, Dec. 11 to review the Pfizer vaccine candidate and subsequently recommended the vaccine for emergency use authorization. 

In a statement following the meeting, the FDA said it will work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization of the vaccine. The agency also said it has notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed to begin execution for a timely distribution. 

The Committee’s decision came after a COVID-19 surge across the U.S., marked by an all-time high death tally. Pfizer has said that it will have about 25 million doses of the two-shot vaccine for the U.S. by the end of December. Initial supplies are expected to be held for health care workers, nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups. The committee will review a second vaccine from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health that appears as effective as Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot.

“This is great news for the fight against COVID across our country and beyond, but we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves against this virus,” said Dr. Hildreth. “Wearing face masks and respecting social distancing guidelines continue to be key ways to keep ourselves safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a future participant in the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Meharry, I encourage all to keep an open mind about the vaccine as a way to keep yourself and those you love safe. We must work together in this effort.” 

Dr. Hildreth and other Black health experts understand the community’s reservations toward the vaccine, but hope more people are willing to learn about the trials and the benefits of the vaccine to better protect themselves and their families.

“The COVID-19 vaccine trial at Meharry will help our community overcome a global pandemic that has exposed cracks in our country’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Hildreth. “We stand with you in this effort and are working for you to combat issues that will help each and every one of us overcome the impact of COVID-19.” 

For more information on COVID-19 and how to be a participant in the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Meharry, please visit or call 1-800-MEHARRY.

Meharry Medical College, founded in 1876, is the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center dedicated to educating minority and other health professionals. True to its heritage, it is a United Methodist Church related institution. The College is particularly well known for its uniquely nurturing, highly effective educational programs; emerging preeminence in health disparities research; culturally sensitive, evidence-based health services and significant contribution to the diversity of the nation’s health professions workforce. Meharry is a leading national educator of African Americans with M.D. and D.D.S. degrees and Ph.D. degrees in the biomedical sciences. Visit to learn more.