Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021: Spotlight on Covid-19 vaccine heroes

The Covid heroes being recognised on the Queen's Birthday Honours List, ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports

As with last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list, which celebrated key workers who were instrumental in Britain’s fight against the pandemic, Covid-19 heroes once again dominate this year’s list.

But it’s the life-saving work of vaccine design and delivery which is being especially highlighted, with a host of awards going to the experts who transformed the country’s vaccine efforts and pandemic response.

Public Health England estimates the vaccination programme has averted 42,000 hospital admissions and more than 14,000 deaths in older adults in England alone.

The list recognises a multitude of specialists from across the scientific community for their pioneering efforts to develop vaccines, run clinical trials, deliver testing and track Covid cases.

Among them are seven celebrated Oxford University scientists who took on the “high stakes endeavour” of combatting the virus.

Researchers Sarah Gilbert, Andrew Pollard, Peter Horby, Martin Landray, Catherine Green, Teresa Lambe and Adrian Hill may not yet be household names, but all played integral roles in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and discovering new drug treatments.

Who are they and what have they been awarded?

Sarah Gilbert is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her key role in creating the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab, which has gone into the arms of tens of millions of people around the world.

She said: “It’s really great to have the recognition on behalf of the whole team and it is so important to recognise the large number of people who worked very hard to get this vaccine developed, manufactured, tested in trials – all of the clinical trial volunteers without whom we couldn’t have tested the vaccine, and now the people working on the vaccine rollout”.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford's Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, has been made a Dame. Credit: PA

Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who is knighted for his services to public health, said: “The pace has been quite incredible because we’ve tried to compress about 10 years of vaccine development into 11 months”.

Catherine Green, head of the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, is made an OBE for services to science and public health, while Peter Horby, director of the Pandemic Sciences Centre, and professor of emerging and infectious diseases and global health, is knighted for services to medical research.

Martin Landray, deputy director of the Big Data Institute, and professor of medicine and epidemiology, is also knighted for services to science and public health.

Professor Martin Landray, Medicine and Epidemiology, Oxford University, has been Knighted. Credit: PA

Irish-born Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, receives an honorary knighthood from the Foreign Office for services to Science and Public Health.

Teresa Lambe, associate professor at the Jenner Institute, is appointed as an honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for services to science and public health.

Venture capitalist Kate Bingham is similarly honoured after overseeing the procurement of the millions of vaccine doses now giving hope to the nation that the fight against the virus is being won.

She hailed the efforts to develop jabs as “a triumph of scientific and industrial collaboration”.

Who are some of the other Covid heroes being recognised?

A wealth of honours also go to acknowledging the people who found ways to make a difference throughout the pandemic – from running free taxis for key workers to making bottles of hand sanitiser.

For example, 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.

“You see in a time of crisis the strengths of humanity I think”, Mr Brownhill said.

Siblings John Brownhill and Amanda Guest, co-founders of Food4Heroes, have been awarded the BEM for services to the Covid-19 Response. Credit: PA

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

Professor Keith Willett, national director for emergency planning and incident response to NHS England and NHS Improvement, is knighted after 40 years with the health service.

Willett, who was previously made a CBE in 2016, said he was “honoured” to be knighted, but added: “I’m also acutely aware of the very many really good people in the NHS and wider health community who in recent times have all given so much, and for some, that’s everything”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the list paid tribute “to all those who have gone above and beyond in their service to this country”. He added that during the pandemic the country had seen “countless examples of everyday heroes”, adding: “We should take heart from the stories of those receiving honours today and be inspired by their courage and kindness. “May they be a reminder of all that we can achieve when we come together as a society”.

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