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Vaccine heroes who battled to find the jabs to save Brits from coronavirus were rewarded with a catalogue of gongs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Nearly a quarter of the awards – 262 – went to UK champions of the fight against the virus which has claimed 3.7 million lives worldwide.
Chief among its heroes were the brains behind the design and trialling of the UK's Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine which has gone into tens of millions of arms around the world.
Its co-designer Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, becomes a dame.
She said the pandemic forced scientists to "accelerate everything" and "go further than we ever had before with this type of vaccine".
"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,'' she said.
Ms Gilbert's colleagues Professors Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, and Peter Horby, joint chief investigator for the Recovery trial searching for coronavirus treatments, will be knighted for their services to public health and medical research respectively.
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Venture capitalist Kate Bingham, former chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, who secured millions of doses of coronavirus jabs for the nation ahead of the rest of the world, gets a damehood.
She said she was "humbled" to be recognised in a year when NHS workers have "risked their health and their lives in fighting Covid".
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"The development of vaccines has been a triumph of scientific and industrial collaboration,'' she said.
"Just a year ago we were assembling an unproven portfolio of vaccines for the UK.
"Yet in the last six months nearly 70 million vaccine doses have provided unprecedented protection and saved thousands of lives."
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Her colleague Divya Chadha Manek, 35, seconded from the National Institute for Health Research to head the taskforce's clinical trials, gets an OBE after convincing manufacturers to base their tests in the UK.
The taskforce recruited more than 500,000 potential volunteers to the vaccine research registry as manufacturers raced to get jabs successfully tested.
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"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,'' Divya said.
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, gets a CBE.
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The ongoing study has involved more than two million Brits.
"It’s been quite a rollercoaster,'' he said.
"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.
"We have picked up the signals early and that’s been really important."
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Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s national director of emergency planning and incident response, will be knighted, and 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 honoured.
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Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, said of her 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."
Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock, senior lecturer at Bristol University, was made an OBE for using her usual work in veterinary public health to provide expert disease modelling advice during the pandemic.
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Professor William Hope, director of the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research in Liverpool, was also honoured with an OBE after leading research and supporting the city’s public health response to Covid-19.
The list recognises a multitude of specialists for their pioneering efforts to develop vaccines, run clinical trials, deliver testing and track Covid cases.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, among the leading experts to become household names during the pandemic, does not get a gong.
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It is thought to be too early for some figures still at the forefront of the pandemic response to be considered.
Public Health England estimates the vaccination programme averted 42,000 hospital admissions and more than 14,000 deaths in England alone.
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A wealth of honours also go to people who found ways to make a difference throughout the pandemic – from running free taxis for key workers to making bottles of hand sanitiser. A British Empire Medal goes to John Brownhill and his sister and Amanda who were so 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.
Rhys Mallows, 25, was honoured with a BEM after helping repurpose a Welsh distillery firm to produce more than one million bottles of hand sanitiser amid high demand.
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It is also a record-breaking list in terms of diversity, with 15% of recipients from an ethnic minority background being the highest proportion to date.
- NHS Heroes
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