COVID-19 Vaccine Achievements Celebrated in Queen's Birthday Honours list

Nicky Broyd

June 11, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine design and delivery, and coronavirus NHS work and research is celebrated in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Around 262 of those on the main honours list have been recommended for their COVID-19 related service – 23% of the total.

Prof Sarah Gilbert/PA Media

Oxford vaccine co-designer Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford's Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, is honoured with a damehood. Her colleagues, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, and Professor Peter Horby, joint chief investigator for the RECOVERY trial searching for coronavirus treatments, are both knighted for their services to public health and medical research respectively.

Ex-chair of the UK vaccine taskforce Kate Bingham becomes a dame after overseeing procurement of the millions of vaccine doses now giving hope to the nation.

Ms Bingham said she was "humbled" to be recognised in a year when NHS workers have "risked their health and their lives in fighting COVID".

Nick Elliott, former director general of the vaccine taskforce, is made a companion of the Order of the Bath.

David Hunt, head of vaccine operations at AstraZeneca is made a CBE – one of eight employees from the pharmaceutical giant being honoured.

Sir Mene Pangalos from AstraZeneca said of his colleagues: "Many have worked around the clock in the past 12 months and have put their lives on hold to commit to a bigger humanitarian cause, positively impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe."

NHS Honours

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England's national director of emergency planning and incident response, is knighted.

He said: "I'd led the NHS preparation for Brexit. Literally up until the week before, I was then asked if I would take on responsibility for leading the response to what then was an early coronavirus we knew little about."

But as professor of orthopaedic trauma surgery at Oxford University and a consultant surgeon, Prof Willett is used to working under pressure.

"I’ve been a trauma surgeon all my life and so dealing with the unexpected and managing with little information and responding to incidents is what I’m professionally trained to do," he said.

"I thought Brexit was the biggest role I’d ever been asked to take on, outside of clinical practice.

“But I have to say, clearly, the pandemic has surpassed that in terms of what it asked of everybody."

Dr Michael McBride. chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, is knighted for services to public health in Northern Ireland.

More Researchers Honoured

Divya Chadha Manek, seconded from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to be clinical trials workstream lead on the Vaccines Taskforce, is made an OBE after playing an instrumental role in convincing manufacturers to base their trials in the UK.

Despite an "incredibly challenging year" the taskforce succeeded in recruiting more than 500,000 potential volunteers to the vaccine research registry.

"It's the first time it's ever happened, that we've been able to do a registry to this scale," Ms Manek said, adding: "What's really incredible is what the vaccine taskforce actually achieved in such a short timeframe, the fact of a group of experts coming together, working towards a common purpose, turbocharging everything that was needed. Incredible."

Professor Paul Elliott, chair of epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial College London and director of the REACT programme that has tracked COVID-19 case numbers throughout the pandemic, is made a CBE for services to scientific research in public health.

He said the ongoing REACT study had involved more than two million members of the public.

Prof Elliott added: "We have seen the ups and downs … I think what's been great about the REACT programme is that we have picked up the signals early and that's been really important."

He continued: "It's been quite a rollercoaster. Many people have been putting in very long hours to achieve this, but in terms of the public health response, it's clearly been very rewarding."

Prof Elliott hailed his scientific colleagues and "the way everyone has just dropped everything and worked together".

Professor of public health Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, is made an OBE for "guiding the public health response to, and public understanding of, COVID-19".

She said: "I think everybody working in public health has had to step up during the pandemic and try and figure out how they were going to contribute, what their skills were.

"I have, for quite some time, engaged with the media and done a lot of science communication – trying to interpret data and communicate it to the public and decision makers.

"I think the OBE is for two things, it's for contributing to the response to address the pandemic and public understanding."

The director of a leading virus research centre has said his honorary OBE is a "reflection on the depth and the broad work we’ve done" during the pandemic.

Professor Massimo Palmarini leads the Medical Research Council-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), based in the Sir Michael Stoker Building at the Garscube campus.

He has been made an honorary OBE, because he is not a British citizen, for services to public health.

Other People Making a Difference

A British Empire Medal (BEM) goes to the brother and sister team of John Brownhill and Amanda Guest, who were moved by the viral video of distressed nurse Dawn Bilbrough to set up Food4Heroes which delivered more than 200,000 meals to the NHS.

Ms Guest and Mr Brownhill said they were "shocked" and "delighted" by their honour and hailed the army of volunteers who helped them.

"It was very much hands on and we got to see all the nurses and doctors and everybody involved in the hospital and they were absolutely thrilled to bits," Ms Guest said.

Rhys Mallows, 25, is also honoured with a BEM after he helped repurpose his Welsh bottling business to produce more than one million bottles of hand sanitiser amid high demand.

He said: "We're not scientists, but we really felt that if we can give people little bullets to protect themselves, then it'd make a big difference."

This article contains information from PA Media.

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