Professor Helen Rees
GCOB, OBE, MB BChir, MA (CANTAB), MRCGP, DCH, DRCOG mASSAf
Professor Helen Rees is internationally renowned as an expert in HIV prevention, reproductive health and vaccines and is one of South Africa’s best-known women scientists. Helen is based in South Africa and is the Executive Director of Wits RHI of the University of Witwatersrand. She is Co-Director of the Wits African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE), dedicated to increasing vaccine research capacity in the African region. In both capacities, she has overseen many vaccine studies including clinical trials, socio-behavioural studies, epidemiological studies and vaccine impact studies. She is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and an Honorary Fellow of Murray Edwards Newhall College in Cambridge University.
Helen is internationally recognised as an award-winning global health practitioner who has dedicated her professional career to improving public health in Africa, with a focus on vaccine preventable diseases, HIV and sexual and reproductive health. She Chairs the Board of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and the World Health Organisation (WHO) AFRO Region Immunization Technical Advisory Group. Helen has extensive involvement in national, regional and global response efforts to COVID-19 including the development of COVID-19 vaccines, their potential rollout and utilization. She is a member of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and a member of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Helen is involved with the oversight of the COVAX facility that GAVI, CEPI and WHO are jointly driving. Helen has significant insights into WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) and emergency response strategies to infectious diseases hazards. Helen chairs the WHO’s IHR Polio Emergency Committee, is a member of the WHO IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19, the WHO Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, the WHO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards as well as the COVID19 Clinical Research Coalition Steering Committee.
Other portfolios give Helen insight into the global framework for vaccine development and access. Helen’s reputation has meant that many international global health organisations have recruited her to serve on and/or chair international scientific committees and Boards for example, she is a Board member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and chairs their Programme and Policy Committee. Helen is a member of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation Board and chairs the CEPI Scientific Advisory Committee. She is past chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), and currently Co-Chairs the WHO SAGE Working Group on Ebola vaccines and the WHO’s HIV Vaccine and Monoclonal antibody Technical Committee.