Dr Kate O’Brien is Director of the Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Department at the World Health Organization. In this role she is responsible for leading WHO’s strategy and implementation to advance the vision of a world where everyone, everywhere, at every age, fully benefits from vaccines for good health and wellbeing. The Department works across all levels of WHO (country, region and headquarters) in collaboration with partners to support countries in achieving the optimum use and impact of vaccines. Dr O’Brien also serves as WHO’s Technical Lead of the COVID Vaccine Pillar (COVAX), a part of the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). COVAX aims to support countries to achieve their goals toward the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy for 2022, released by WHO and the UN Secretary General in October 2021. It establishes the health, social and economic goals of the vaccine effort and establishes a target of 70% full vaccine coverage by mid-2022. Dr O’Brien is a Canadian pediatric infectious disease physician, epidemiologist and vaccinologist. She earned her Bachelor of Science in chemistry from University of Toronto (Canada), her MD from McGill University (Canada), and her MPH from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (US) before completing her training at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer, in the Respiratory Diseases Branch.
Prior to joining WHO she was Professor of International Health and Epidemiology and Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research and policy work over the past 30 years has focused on vaccine equity and impact through disease and risk-factor epidemiology studies, clinical field trials of novel vaccines, etiology studies of pneumonia, vaccine impact and effectiveness evaluations, modeling of disease burden, and policy analyses to drive decision making. She has worked in countries in south Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as with American Indian tribes in the southwestern United States.