Shabir Madhi

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Shabir Ahmed Madhi
Shabir Madhi for Fundacion Civio.jpg
Madhi in 2017
Born1966 (age 5455)
NationalitySouth African
Education University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Known forLeading COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa
Medical career
Sub-specialties Vaccinology

Shabir Ahmed Madhi (born 1966) is a South African physician who is professor of vaccinology and director of the South African Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand, and National Research Foundation/Department of Science and Technology Research Chair in Vaccine Preventable Diseases. In January 2021, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwateratand.


He was executive director of South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases from 2011 to 2017, and has served on several WHO committees in roles pertinent to vaccines and pneumonia. In 2018, he co-founded the African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE) and was appointed Chair of South Africa's National Advisory Group on Immunization (NAGI).

His research has included studies on the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and rotavirus vaccine, and in pregnant women, the influenza and respiratory syncytial virus vaccines.

Since the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he has been leading COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, including the first in Africa. In 2021 he stated that the first and foremost method of ending COVID-19 in South Africa is to implement a mass vaccination programme.

Early life and education

Madhi was born in 1966. [1] His father was a teacher and mother a housewife. [2] Initially aspiring to becoming an engineer, he opted to accept a bursary to study medicine and was initially reluctant to persist with his medical education. [2] In 1990 he completed his undergraduate and postgraduate training at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and six years later, became a fellow of the College of Paediatrics (FCPaeds (SA)). [3] During this time, with encouragement from Glenda Gray, he applied for a post under professor Keith Klugman, to work on vaccines for pneumonia. [2]

In 1998 he received a master's degree in medicine (paediatrics). [1] He gained his PhD in 2003. [1] [3]


Madhi is professor of vaccinology and director of the South African Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand, and National Research Foundation/Department of Science and Technology Research Chair in Vaccine Preventable Diseases. [3] [4] [5] These units have been rebranded as the MRC Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA). [6]

He was executive director of South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases from 2011 to 2017, and has served on several WHO committees in roles pertinent to vaccines and pneumonia. [3] In 2018, after spending four years as deputy-chair of South Africa's National Advisory Group on Immunization (NAGI), he became its chairperson. [3] In the same year he co-founded the African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE), based at the University of the Witwatersrand, with the aim of expanding expertise in vaccinology in Africa. [3] In January 2021, he became Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of the Witwateratand. [7] [8]

Pneumonia vaccine

His research has included studies on the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. [3] [9] [10] This research led to the WHO recommendations on the delivery of this vaccine in low and middle-income countries. [3]

Rotavirus vaccine

Madhi led the first study that showed that a rotavirus vaccine could significantly prevent severe diarrhoea during the first year of life in African babies. It was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2010. [11] [12] The paper provided one of the key pieces of evidence for the WHO recommendations of universal rotavirus vaccination. [3]

Flu vaccine

In pregnant women, he studied the effectiveness of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus vaccines. [3] [9] [10] He led one of the largest studies evaluating the immune response to influenza vaccination in pregnant women. [13] His work showed that the risk of flu halved in women given the flu vaccine. In addition, the risk to their newborns in the first 24 weeks of life was also reduced. The findings were presented at the 16th International Congress on Infectious Diseases and he reported that his "data support the recent WHO recommendation in terms of prioritizing pregnant women for influenza vaccination, not just for the protection of the mother, but protection of the infant as well". [14] Later, he became involved in the clinical development of a vaccine against Group B streptococcus for pregnant women. [3]


Other research has involved assessing the efficacy of various drug regimens to prevent tuberculosis (TB) in people with HIV. [15]


Since the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he has been leading COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, including the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine [16] [17] and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, [18] [19] the first COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in the continent of Africa. [20] Asserting that South Africa's second wave in December 2020 is largely driven by mass gatherings and changing people's behaviour, rather than solely on the new variant, he has called for a wider coverage of COVID-19 vaccination. [21] His co-authored publication on results of a large clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine suggest that the vaccine is safe and effective. [22] In 2021 he made it clear that the first and foremost method of ending COVID-19 in South Africa is to implement a mass vaccination programme. [23] On 1 January 2021 he tweeted "Ability of vaccines to impact on the pandemic is directly related to how soon you can get approx 50–60% of the population vaccinated." [23]

Awards and honours

Since 2012, he has been considered an internationally recognised scientist with an A-rating by the South Africa's National Research Foundation. [3] In 2014 he received the Platinum Medal, South African Medical Research Council's life-time award. In 2016 he received the European Developing Clinical Trial Partnership Scientific Award. [3]

Selected publications

Madhi has authored more than 350 publications between 1997 and 2018, [3] covering topics such as childhood vaccines, pneumonia, severe infections in young children and vaccination in pregnancy. [24]


Related Research Articles

Vaccine Pathogen-derived preparation that provides acquired immunity to an infectious disease

A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future. Vaccines can be prophylactic, or therapeutic. Some vaccines offer full sterilizing immunity, in which infection is prevented completely.

Herd immunity Concept in epidemiology

Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur with some diseases when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity. Immune individuals are unlikely to contribute to disease transmission, disrupting chains of infection, which stops or slows the spread of disease. The greater the proportion of immune individuals in a community, the smaller the probability that non-immune individuals will come into contact with an infectious individual.

This is a timeline of the development of prophylactic human vaccines. Early vaccines may be listed by the first year of development or testing, but later entries usually show the year the vaccine finished trials and became available on the market. Although vaccines exist for the diseases listed below, only smallpox has been eliminated worldwide. The other vaccine-preventable illnesses continue to cause millions of deaths each year. Currently, polio and measles are the targets of active worldwide eradication campaigns.

Influenza vaccine Vaccine against influenza

Influenza vaccines, also known as flu jabs or flu shots, are vaccines that protect against infection by influenza viruses. New versions of the vaccines are developed twice a year, as the influenza virus rapidly changes. While their effectiveness varies from year to year, most provide modest to high protection against influenza. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vaccination against influenza reduces sickness, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Immunized workers who do catch the flu return to work half a day sooner on average. Vaccine effectiveness in those over 65 years old remains uncertain due to a lack of high-quality research. Vaccinating children may protect those around them.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccines are vaccines against the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Their use can prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines: conjugate vaccines and polysaccharide vaccines. They are given by injection either into a muscle or just under the skin.

Immunization during pregnancy, that is the administration of a vaccine to a pregnant woman, is not a routine event as it is generally preferred to administer vaccines either prior to conception or in the postpartum period. When widespread vaccination is used, the risk for an unvaccinated pregnant patient to be exposed to a related infection is low, allowing for postponement, in general, of routine vaccinations to the postpartum period. Nevertheless, immunization during pregnancy may occur either inadvertently, or be indicated in a special situation, when it appears prudent to reduce the risk of a specific disease for a potentially exposed pregnant woman or her fetus.

Rotavirus vaccine is a vaccine used to protect against rotavirus infections, which are the leading cause of severe diarrhea among young children. The vaccines prevent 15–34% of severe diarrhea in the developing world and 37–96% of severe diarrhea in the developed world. The vaccines decrease the risk of death among young children due to diarrhea. Immunizing babies decreases rates of disease among older people and those who have not been immunized.

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  1. 1 2 3 Curriculum Vitae: Shabir Madhi. World Association for Infectious Diseases and Immunological Disorders, via www.waidid.
  2. 1 2 3 Saba, Athandiwe (5 September 2020). "Q&A Sessions: The accidental vaccinologist". The Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
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