Gavi Appoints Pakistan Senator as New CEO
Incoming Gavi CEO Sania Nishtar

Pakistan Senator Dr Sania Nishtar  has been appointed new CEO of the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, and will take up the position on 18 March.

This follows the previous appointee, Dr Muhammad Pate, pulling out last June – six weeks before he was due to take office, in order to serve as health minister of Nigeria.

Nishtar has had a 30 year career as a global public health leader. Her roles have included Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, and Federal Health Minister during her country’s 2013 caretaker government.

She was the inaugural Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) for women’s and children’s health and Co-Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Independent High-level Commission on Non-communicable Diseases.

She also founded the non-profit NGO think tank, Heartfile, to campaign for health reform in Pakistan. 

Nishtar graduated from Khyber Medical College in Peshawar, Pakistan, top of her class. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and received a PhD from King’s College London, which awarded her an honorary Doctorate in Science, Honoris Causa, in 2019. 

In 2020, she was listed on one of the BBC’s 100 Women, a list of inspiring and influential women from around the world.

“Over three decades of leadership at the national and global levels, Dr Nishtar has built a reputation as a tireless advocate for health equity, an innovative thinker and a proven doer when it comes to solving complex challenges,” said Professor José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the Gavi Board.

“I am impressed by her accomplishments and excited by the possibilities her appointment brings for our Alliance and our ambitions to protect future generations.”

Enormous task

Meanwhile, Nishtar said that “health starts with life-saving vaccines”. 

“Over the past 23 years, Gavi has been one of the most impactful organisations in global health. The task ahead is enormous – from health impacts of climate change, to the need to tackle vaccine inequity, prepare for future outbreaks and boost routine immunisation, which I believe is the gateway to achieving Universal Health Coverage,” she added.

“I am honoured by the trust the Gavi Board has placed in me and look forward to working with Gavi’s talented staff and skilled Alliance partners to ensure Gavi reaches hundreds of millions of children in lower-income countries with life-saving vaccines against deadly and debilitating diseases.”

Gavi’s fifth five-year strategic period drawing to a close at the end of 2025, and the organisation will seek board approval during this year for its next five-year strategy for 2026–2030. 

Image Credits: Gavi.

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