AUSiMED delegation

COVID force heads for Israel

Professor Sharon Lewin and Dr Kerry Chant will join a mission to Israel, organised by Australian not-for-profit AUSiMED, which fosters collaborative biomedical research and knowledge exchange between world-leading clinicians and scientists.

Doherty Institute director Professor Sharon Lewin is off to Israel next month. Photo: AAP Image/James Ross
AUSiMED chair Antony Cohen.

THEY are familiar faces on our TV screens – Professor Sharon Lewin and Dr Kerry Chant helped guide the nation through the depths of the COVID pandemic in 2020-21 and continue to play an important advisory role. And both will be part of a 15-strong team of Australian public health experts visiting Israel next month for a high-level exchange on managing the pandemic.

Lewin, who is Jewish, is director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, and co-chair of the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Council. She will join Chant, who is NSW chief health officer, as well as Professor Allen Cheng – former co-chair of the ATAGI COVID-19 Working Group – and vaccine expert Associate Professor Nigel Crawford, along with others who have helped guide government pandemic policy.

The September 4-8 mission is being organised by Australian not-for-profit AUSiMED, which fosters collaborative biomedical research and knowledge exchange between world-leading clinicians and scientists in Australia and Israel.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. Photo: AAP Image/Damian Shaw

Lewin is the inaugural director of the Doherty Institute and a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne. She is a practitioner with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and chief investigator of the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE), classed as an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence. APPRISE aims to bring together Australia’s leading experts in clinical, laboratory and public health research to address the key components required for a rapid and effective emergency response to infectious diseases.

Chant, aside from her role as NSW chief health officer, is deputy secretary of Population and Public Health. She gained prominence during the COVID pandemic, providing regular public health advice for NSW, for which she was named the state’s Woman of the Year in 2021.

AUSiMED chair Antony Cohen.

Cheng is professor of infectious diseases epidemiology, and director of the Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology unit at Alfred Health. He co-chaired the ATAGI COVID-19 Working Group that provided advice on the effective and equitable use of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia. Crawford is director of Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination in the Community (SAEFVIC), a vaccine safety and clinical immunisation research group based at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Lewin observed, “On this tour, we’re hoping to learn a lot more about Israel’s health informatics and data systems, and how similar approaches could be integrated into the Australian public health response. We will also be looking at Israel’s vaccine rollout to vulnerable and vaccine-hesitant communities.

“The Israeli participants in the mission are very interested in learning about our strategies for public engagement. These involved science, modelling and rational planning. A number of the modellers who were key to Australia’s COVID-19 roadmap, as well as leading virologists who developed COVID-19 vaccines, are also members of our delegation. One of the most important discoveries Australia made during the pandemic was linking antibody levels following vaccination to clinical outcomes and the Israelis also want to learn more about that.”

Delegates will meet with department heads in the Israeli Ministry of Health and clinicians from Israel’s leading universities and hospital networks, including Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute, Sheba Medical Centre, Hadassah Medical Centre, Tel Aviv Ichilov Medical Centre and Clalit Research Institute.

Noting Australia and Israel are strategic partners in trade, culture and health, AUSiMED chair Antony Cohen said that “both have much to offer each other and the rest of the world in terms of COVID-19 learnings”.

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