Pivoting in a Pandemic

South Africa’s Response to COVID-19

This blog post is part of Sabin’s Pivoting in a Pandemic series, which captures stories of extraordinary leaders who are adapting to advance research and public health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roxana Rustomjee speaks with Professors Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim from South Africa.

Salim is co-chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, and the country’s steadfast face of the Covid-19 public health response. He also sits on the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus, overseeing the continent’s response to the global crisis.

Professor Salim and his partner, Quarraisha, lead the Durban-based Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). The main goal of CAPRISA is to undertake globally relevant and locally responsive research that contributes to understanding HIV pathogenesis, prevention, and epidemiology as well as the links between tuberculosis and AIDS care. During the past year, Salim and Quarraisha turned their attention to South Africa’s COVID-19 crisis.

In their discussion, Salim and Quarraisha describe South Africa’s response to COVID-19, touching on vaccine manufacturing, the importance of ongoing preventative measures, and the impact of new variants. Above all, they emphasize the importance of mutual interdependence to defeat this pandemic once and for all.

Roxana Rustomjee joined the Sabin Vaccine Institute as the senior vice president of Research & Development as of November 2019. She is a leader in the global health community and is committed to ensuring that people in low- and middle-income countries have access to vaccines. She has served on a number of expert working groups with the World Health Organization, USAID and others, and on boards including that of The Biologicals and Vaccines (Biovac) Institute of Southern Africa (Proprietary Limited). Roxana’s expertise lies in effectively managing large, multi-country teams to accelerate biopharmaceutical product development and licensure. She has led global clinical trial networks across five continents, conducting trials in most countries with a high burden of infectious diseases as a senior scientist.