THE life-saving work of Covid-19 vaccine design and delivery is celebrated in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, with a host of awards going to the experts who transformed the UK’s pandemic response.

Chief among its heroes are the brains behind the design and trialling of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine – the second to be approved for use in the UK.

Its co-designer Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, is honoured with a damehood.

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Professor Gilbert becomes a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire 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.

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

Professor Gilbert said that while a coronavirus vaccine was in development for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), the Covid-19 pandemic forced scientists to ‘accelerate everything’ and ‘go further than we ever had before with this type of vaccine’.

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.”

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.

Venture capitalist Ms 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.

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

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.

Out of the 1,129 people receiving honours, 62 per cent are being recognised for community work.

Some 262 of those on the main honours list have been recommended for their Covid-19 related service – 23 per cent of the total.

Meanwhile, 9 per cent of those honoured had a disability, 17.3 per cent were from a lower socio-economic background and 5 per cent identified as LGBT.

More women (50.2 per cent) than men feature on the list, the first time this has happened since 2015.

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It is also a record-breaking list in terms of diversity, with 15 per cent of recipients from an ethnic minority background being the highest proportion to date.

Other scientists across the county were also praised for their work throughout the pandemic.

Professor Keith Malcolm Willett, national director for emergency planning and incident response, was recognised for his services to the NHS. 

Ruth Anne Llwellin Todd, from Banbury, was praised for her work on vaccine delivery. 

Professor Martin Landray, who is a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University, also was honoured for his services to medical research this year.