South Africa was the first country in Africa to vaccinate children against the common causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea, which result in high rates of childhood mortality (20 percent succumb to pneumonia, 18 percent to diarrhoea).
The vaccines, rotavirus and pneumococcal-conjugate, were developed by Wits professor Shabir Madhi, who last year was appointed the executive director of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.
Madhi started researching vaccine-preventable diseases (that is, killers of children, including those with HIV) as soon as he’d got his degree, and has spent the last 16 years becoming aninternational leader in his field.
In 2006 he won the Young Investigators Award from the European Society of Infectious Diseases, and several other accolades since then.
Madhi is also the president of the World Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and has contributed to over 150 scientific articles and journals.
His research unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is a global leader and his findings have guided the World Health Organisation in setting recommendations for universal childhood immunisation.
Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to spend a life-saving $10 billion on vaccines for the world’s poorest children.
And if or when the next global influenza pandemic hits, it will be Professor Madhi’s current work on a flu vaccine that could save many lives.
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