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World-renowned vaccinologist awarded CBE

- Wits University

Professor Shabir Madhi has been appointed as an honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by King Charles III.

Wits Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Madhi awarded CBE by King Charles III_Oct 2023

Wits Professor of  Vaccinology Shabir Madhi led the Oxford University sponsored Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials in South Africa

Wits University and the University of Oxford contributed scientifically to informing the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and globally.

Madhi receives the Order in recognition of his services to science and public health in a global pandemic.

Madhi led South Africa and the continent’s first Covid-19 vaccine trials in 2020/2021 as founder and Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Wits Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (Wits VIDA) Research Unit.

An internationally recognised leader in his field, the National Research Foundation A-rated scientist was involved in multiple clinical and serology epidemiology studies on Covid-19, in addition to his research on vaccines against other life-threatening diseases.

The first of (subsequently two) Wits University-led South African Covid-19 vaccine trials, Madhi led the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials in South Africa, in association with the University of Oxford.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford, and Madhi’s UK counterpart in these Covid-19 vaccine trials, says of Madhi’s CBE appointment: “I am delighted that Professor Shabir Madhi CBE has been honoured by King Charles for his remarkable contributions to global public health and particularly for his extraordinary leadership in the midst of a global pandemic. It has been a huge privilege for me to work alongside him and his team on the development of the globally impactful Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Over the course of the pandemic (2020-2022), Madhi had been an outspoken, articulate, and ardent advocate of Covid-19 vaccination as well as for increased access to these and other vaccines in Africa.

On his appointment as CBE, Madhi says: “The privilege of being conferred this honour is credit to the tremendous effort of the incredible Wits VIDA research team that I have the privilege of leading at Wits University – before, during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. As a collective, and together with colleagues at the University of Oxford and in South Africa, we are proud to have contributed scientifically to informing the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and globally.”

A lifetime dedicated to saving lives

During the pandemic, Madhi was simultaneously (and remains) Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits University, Director of Wits VIDA, and co-Director of the African Leadership Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE). He is deputy-Chair of the World Health Organization Scientific Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and a member of the National Advisory Group on Immunization in South Africa.

A Wits University alumnus, Madhi trained as a paediatrician. Before the pandemic necessitated pivoting to Covid-19 research, his focus was (and continues) to be on the epidemiology and clinical development of vaccines against pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.

Madhi is internationally renowned for his research on clinical development of vaccines targeted at pregnant women that have the potential to benefit the mother, the pregnancy outcome, and their infants. Studies by Madhi have informed World Health Organization recommendations on the use of lifesaving vaccines against pneumonia, diarrheal disease, and in relation to vaccines in pregnant women.

Another jewel in his crown

Madhi’s royal appointment as CBE follows extensive recognition and accolades in South Africa. In 2021/22 he was awarded the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 Lifetime Achiever Award, which acknowledges his leadership in researching vaccines against life-threatening diseases in Africa and globally, and for being at the cutting-edge of research in this area since 1997.

That same year, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) awarded Madhi the Science for Society Gold Medal for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.

A decade before the pandemic, the SAMRC awarded Madhi its most prestigious accolade, the Lifetime Achievement Award (Platinum Medal). This award recognised Madhi’s research excellence in the field of vaccinology and respiratory and meningeal pathogens, and its impact on improving child health in South Africa and other developing countries.

Madhi is a member of ASSAf, the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSAf) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).