ASSAf annually awards ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society. This year the awards were presented to two eminent scientists, Professor Shabir Madhi and Professor Barry Schoub at its Annual Awards Ceremony held virtually on 20 October 2021.
Professor Shabir Madhi is Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Director of the South African Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (Wits VIDA). He has been conducting clinical and epidemiological research for 25 years with a specific focus on the clinical and molecular epidemiology and prevention of pneumonia, meningitis, neonatal sepsis and diarrheal disease and has co-authored more than 500 scientific manuscripts since 1997, mainly on vaccine preventable diseases. He has in the past led studies on pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and rotavirus vaccine in Africa, which informed WHO recommendations on the use of these vaccines in low- and middle-income settings. He has also been the lead on studies investigating the clinical development of influenza, Group B streptococcus and respiratory syncytial virus vaccines for pregnant women aimed at protection of mother-infant dyad. Most recently, Prof Madhi has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and has led the first two COVID-19 vaccine studies undertaken in Africa. He has been involved in multiple epidemiological studies on COVID-19 in South Africa and through various forms of media, he is playing a crucial role in educating the public about the virus.
Professor Barry Schoub was Director of the National Institute of Virology and created the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in 2002. His exceptional track record of high impact publications on viral vaccines have made critically important scientific contributions to the development of a novel poliovirus vaccine and a rotavirus vaccine and played a key role in local manufacture of poliovirus vaccines in South Africa. He was the founding chair of the National Advisory Group on Immunisation of South Africa, served as initial Chair of the Polio Expert Committee and led the scientific board of the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation, which built the depth of expertise the country has in virology. He has had a truly impressive impact on viral diseases and vaccination in South Africa and he has guided the careers of many young virology scientists.
Prof Schoub is currently the Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 vaccines guiding South Africa’s vaccination programme.