Geneva, 19 October 2023 – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance appointed global health leader Professor Helen Rees as the Chair of its Vaccine Investment Strategy (VIS) Steering Committee. Prof Rees is an expert in vaccine implementation and delivery, vaccine research and development, regulatory science and infectious disease epidemiology.
The VIS Steering Committee guides Gavi’s evidence-based process to identify new and under-used vaccines of the highest importance to Gavi-supported countries and with the greatest need for financial support. The VIS enables Gavi to take stock of the vaccine landscape to assess the cost, impact, value and programmatic feasibility of relevant products. The VIS also provides partners, manufacturers and Gavi-supported countries with key information to support planning over a longer time horizon.
Prof Rees is Executive Director of Wits RHI, the University of Witwatersrand’s largest research institution which focuses on HIV/TB and other infectious diseases and vaccines, reproductive health and climate change and health. She is a Personal Professor in the University of Witwatersrand’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Co-Director of Wits African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE), a Wits University flagship programme. She is also an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and an Honorary Fellow in Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University. She has received an honorary doctorate in Science from the University of London and an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from Rhodes University in recognition of her work in regulatory science.
As Chair of the VIS Steering Committee, Prof Rees will provide guidance to Gavi’s process of developing the Vaccine Investment Strategy 2024 (VIS 2024), an 18-month evidence-driven process, which will inform the Gavi Board’s final investment decisions in June 2024. VIS 2024 will evaluate new vaccines and passive immunisation products anticipated to be available by 2030, as well as potential incremental investments for the existing Gavi portfolio and recommendations on vaccine prioritisation, particularly in a post-pandemic context.
“It is a privilege to have Prof Rees lead the VIS Steering Committee. She brings wide insights, experience, expertise and passion to the Gavi mission, as the Alliance moves to take stock of the vaccine landscape for the coming years,” said Marta Tufet, the Head of Policy at Gavi. “Prof Rees and the Committee’s input, guidance and support will inform Gavi and stakeholders in planning over a longer time horizon.”
Prof Helen Rees OBE is the founder and Executive Director of Wits RHI, the largest research institute at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. A medical doctor by profession, Helen is a Personal Professor in the University of Witwatersrand’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Co-Director of the Wits African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE) Wits University flagship project, an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and an Honorary Fellow at Cambridge University’s Murray Edwards College, UK. She holds a Doctor of Science (Medicine) (honoris causa) from the University of London and a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from Rhodes University, South Africa.
Prof Rees is internationally renowned for her work in vaccines, HIV prevention and reproductive health. She has over 250 academic peer-reviewed publications and has received many national and international awards for her contributions to African and global health. In 2022, she was conferred by the University of London with an honorary Doctorate in Science (Medicine) DSc (honoris causa). In March 2023, she was conferred by Rhodes University as Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa) in recognition of her distinguished career and commitment to improving access to quality health care and medicines in South Africa, Africa and beyond. In 2022, Prof Rees was named a ‘standout voice’ in African public health by Harvard Public Health.
Prof Rees is widely respected for her ability to synthesise recommendations from multifaceted inputs and to link research to policy. She has successfully chaired many national, regional and global committees in deliberations that have changed key strategies and policies in the African region; and has served on expert structures and committees for the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prof Rees is chair of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority Board and WHO’s African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group. She is also chair of the MedAccess Board.
Prof Rees has worked extensively on various national and global committees in response to COVID-19. She is a member of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) Working Group on COVID-19 vaccines and co-chair of the COVAX Facility’s Independent Product Group. Prof Rees is chair of WHO’s IHR Emergency Review Committee on Polio; and is co-chair of WHO’s Ebola Vaccine Working Group.