Britain’s vaccines tsar, Dame Kate Bingham, is being prevented from travelling abroad because she took part in early vaccine trials, The Telegraph has learned.
The biochemist, hailed a pandemic hero after spearheading the Government’s vaccines taskforce, is among an estimated 40,000 people forced to put their summer plans on hold after the NHS computer system refused to recognise their Covid trial jabs.
The NHS system will not accept proof that they have taken part in a clinical trial for several more weeks, leaving many unwilling to risk booking a holiday – even if they have had two jabs – because a green tick will not yet have appeared on their vaccine passport.
A source said: "It’s not a good situation for any of the triallists to be in. They’re being held in limbo. I imagine it’s quite awkward for Kate because she has been asked to speak at events abroad this summer and doesn’t know if she will be able to, quite apart from whether she can travel on holiday."
Dame Kate, a managing partner at venture capital firm SV Health Investors, is due to be crowned "Woman of the Year" at a Women Innovating Together in Healthcare event in Paris on Monday night – but it is not yet clear whether she will be able to collect the award in person.
Last year, she oversaw the procurement of over 350 million doses of six different Covid jabs. On Wednesday, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that more than two in three British adults had now received both jabs, taking the total to 35,155,767.
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The 55-year-old mother of three, who is married to Jesse Norman, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, was rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her efforts in the unpaid role.
In an interview with The Telegraph in March, Dame Kate described taking part in the Novavax trials, saying the vaccine looked "incredibly strong against the variants".
It is understood she received her second Novavax jab in the spring – but as the vaccine has not received final approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, it is not yet recognised by the NHS or accepted by EU countries.
This is despite the trials, which started last October, showing the vaccine to be 96 per cent effective against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
The Government has ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine and, if approved, a large proportion of those supplies will be manufactured at Novavax’s UK factory in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.
It is thought Dame Kate and fellow taskforce members are concerned that volunteers will be put off taking part in future trials if they cannot get vaccine passports despite being double jabbed. The technical "glitch" also affects those who took part in trials of the Johnson & Johnson and Valneva vaccines.
Last year, Dame Kate oversaw the procurement of over 350 million doses of six different Covid jabs
Credit: Television Stills
In a letter sent to vaccine volunteers last month, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: "The Department of Health and Social Care makes a firm commitment to all volunteers in formally approved Covid-19 vaccine trials in the UK that you will not be disadvantaged in terms of any future domestic vaccine certification, if introduced, compared to anyone else who has had their vaccines under the standard NHS programme."
Insisting that anyone who has taken part in a clinical trial would be "treated as fully vaccinated", he added: "Operationally, it will take a few weeks for the NHS to complete the programming work, but it will happen before the end of July.
"Participants in well-regulated clinical trials should also not be disadvantaged as global travel resumes. We believe the added risk of allowing the relatively small number of clinical trial participants to travel – in the UK approximately 40,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been vaccinated – is strongly outweighed by the benefit of ensuring that recruitment and retention into clinical trials can continue."
A DHSC spokesman said: "The NHS Covid Pass service is helping tens of thousands of English and Welsh citizens demonstrate their vaccination status quickly, easily and for free, both for international travel and for use at events as part of the Events Research Programme.
"The information displayed is from national NHS systems and, if a patient’s information is incorrect or missing, they can contact their GP who will be able to update their record. The NHS Covid Pass service will in the coming weeks display vaccine information for people enrolled in clinical trials."