Pakistan senator Sania Nishtar, a medical doctor, will soon take the reins of the Gavi vaccine alliance, the first woman to lead it, the organisation said Thursday.
Nishtar, a former health minister, will take over as Gavi’s new chief executive officer on March 18, it said.
The 60-year-old politician will replace David Marlow, who has been serving as interim CEO since long-time leader Seth Berkley left last August.
Gavi had announced last February that Mohammad Ali Pate, a Nigerian doctor and Harvard professor, would replace Berkley.
But just six weeks before he was expected to start, he decided to back out, informing Gavi that he had instead decided to “return and contribute to his home country”.
Nishtar has had a range of roles within the Pakistani government, NGOs and the United Nations, during her 30-year career.
She “has built a reputation as a tireless advocate for health equity”, Jose Manuel Barroso, chair of the Gavi board, said in the statement.
He hailed her as “an innovative thinker and a proven doer when it comes to solving complex challenges”.
Gavi is a non-profit created in 2000 to provide an array of vaccines to developing countries.
“Health starts with life-saving vaccines,” Nishtar said in the statement.
While acknowledging Gavi’s contribution to the field over the past 23 years, she added: “The task ahead is enormous.”
Gavi says that since its inception, it has helped immunise more than a billion children, and has helped to halve child mortality in 78 lower-income countries.
That work, it says, “prevented more than 17.3 million future deaths”.
It co-led the Covax initiative, alongside the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The global scheme to ensure Covid vaccines reached people in poorer countries closed down last month after delivering nearly two billion doses to 146 territories.