Professor Helen Rees


Professor Helen Rees is Founder and Executive Director of Wits RHI at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a Personal Professor in the University of Witwatersrand’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Co-Director of ALIVE (African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise) which is Wits University’s flagship vaccinology programme. She is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).


Prof Rees has extensive experience in the field of medicines regulation and Chairs the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). She has been very involved in national, regional and global response efforts to COVID-19 including the development of COVID-19 vaccines, their potential rollout and utilization. In South Africa, Prof Rees is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines and Chairs the VACC-MAC COVID-19 Variant Technical Working Group. Internationally, she is a member of the COVAX committee on COVID-19 maternal immunization, a member of WHO’s expert committee on COVID-19 vaccines and a member of WHO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards. GAVI, CEPI and WHO are jointly driving the global COVID vaccine effort including the COVAX facility, and Prof Rees is involved with the oversight of the COVAX facility. She is a member of the WHO IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19. Prof Rees has worked extensively with WHO and other institutions in the African region and Chairs the WHO’s African Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (RITAG). Prof Rees is widely recognised for her work as a global health practitioner and has been appointed as chair and member of many international scientific committees and Boards. She is currently the chair of WHO’s International Health Regulation (IHR) Polio Emergency Committee and Co-Chair of the WHO SAGE Working Group on Ebola Vaccines. Prof Rees is a member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) Board and chairs the Gavi Programme and Policy Committee. She is a member of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) Board and chairs the CEPI Scientific Advisory Committee.


Prof Rees has been recognised with many awards for her contribution to medicine, global health, human rights and women’s rights. She was awarded the South African Order of the Baobab and was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.