Readers of the Hereford Times may have seen the inaccurate and misleading national coverage of the work of my wife, Kate Bingham.

Perhaps I may put the record straight.

Since May, Kate has been working around the clock leading the UK effort to source effective vaccines against Covid-19. She has earned nothing, and does not expect to earn anything, from her work as chair of the Vaccines Task Force.

This is, and has always been, a short-term appointment, and it will end next month. Kate is a leader in the life sciences field and has worked in it for 30 years. To give just one example, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people alive today who can see because of a breakthrough technology to combat macular degeneration of the eye which one of Kate’s teams developed.

Long before her appointment as chair, she was well known to the business department and senior government scientists. Needless to say, I had no hand in her appointment.

As the Government has made clear, all Kate’s public appearances and presentations have been cleared in advance by civil servants, as have any potential conflicts of interest, in the usual way. All spending by the task force has been negotiated and agreed by officials, again in the usual way.

What has been reported as “personal PR” spending was nothing of the kind: it was to inform and educate the British public, all 65 million of us, about the nature and importance of vaccines at a time of great national uncertainty.

The full value of Kate’s work has yet to be made public, but let me give two early examples. The first is that she and the task force have led the public campaign to recruit volunteers to the NHS Vaccines Trials Registry. This has been extremely successful, and now has over 300,000 people registered. It means that companies have a one-stop shop to recruit suitable volunteers for trials of new vaccines and other medicines. It is a huge breakthrough, and the first registry in the world of its kind.

The second is that Kate has been absolutely central in securing large and early supplies for the UK of the effective Pfizer vaccine just announced.

Many other countries, and even the EU, had not done so and are now having to catch up. Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, said the UK had “only got 30m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech because of her”.

Other vaccine development work has benefited from early UK investment, and a new plank to our national advanced manufacturing strategy has been laid. But the VTF has also been working very closely for months with international vaccines organisations so that countries around the world can also enjoy the benefits of UK leadership in this vital area.

Jesse Norman MP

Hereford and South Hereford

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