The face of South Africa’s Covid science on why Africa has been hit less hard than Europe, the new variant in the region, and the danger of vaccine nationalism

The epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim could be considered South Africa’s Anthony Fauci. As co-chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, he is the government’s top adviser on the pandemic and has become the country’s face of Covid-19 science. He also sits on the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus, overseeing the continent’s response to the global crisis.

Karim, who directs the Durban-based Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa and is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, has long advocated for science and speaking truth to power. For three decades, along with his wife and scientific collaborator, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, he has been at the forefront of the fight against South Africa’s substantial HIV and tuberculosis epidemics and in the early 2000s was one of the scientists who spoke out against the government’s Aids denialism.

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