02.03.2024

Beloved Covid guru Sir Jonathan Van-Tam joins vaccine giant Moderna as a part-time adviser

Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, one of the key faces of the Government’s Covid response, is now working for US pharmaceutical giant Moderna. England’s former deputy chief medical officer – who quit his role in March 2022 as the pandemic era fizzled out – joined the Covid vaccine maker this May as a senior medical consultant, according to official filings.

The part-time role is part of his ‘portfolio-based career’, which includes his position as a strategy advisor in medicine at the University of Nottingham.

Moderna today said the appointment of JVT, as he is affectionately known, was ‘in accordance with the Department for Health and Social Care in England’s business appointment rules policy’. His salary was not made public.

The firm last year signed a 10-year deal with the Government – thought to be worth in the region of £1billion – to ‘future proof’ the country against another pandemic by making 250million vaccines a year.

In response to Sir Jonathan’s announcement, critics claimed ‘far too many personal-professional conflicts now riddle the upper echelons of our public health system’.

Carol Vorderman shared the story on Twitter, pointing out that it was ‘allowed within current rules’ and adding: ‘Nice work if you can get it?’

Sir Jonathan held roles with other pharmaceutical firms in the early 2000s, including a stint at SmithKline Beecham, Roche and Sanofi-Pasteur.

Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s former deputy chief medical officer – who quit his role in March 2022 as the pandemic era fizzled out – joined the Covid vaccine maker this May as a senior medical consultant, according to official filings. The part-time role is part of his ‘portfolio-based career’, which includes his position as a strategy advisor in medicine at the University of Nottingham

Sir Jonathan, knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for his services to public health, was a member of the vaccines taskforce during his time as deputy CMO. His job was advertised for up to £149,000.

This body made decisions on ‘all vaccine supply contracts and major investments in manufacturing and clinical opportunities’.

Britain bought 77million Moderna vaccines, in two batches, during the pandemic — fewer than it bought of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer jabs.

According to the Financial Times, public filings show the Government has restricted Professor Van-Tam from lobbying the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) or its executive agencies or participating in procurement bids relating to the health ministry until after March 2024.

He is also prohibited from using privileged information from his time in government to further business interests.

Sir Jonathan’s part-time consulting role is for the whole global business, not focused on the UK.

Moderna today said the appointment of JVT, as he is affectionately known, was 'in accordance with the Department for Health and Social Care in England's business appointment rules policy'. His salary was not made public

Moderna today said the appointment of JVT, as he is affectionately known, was ‘in accordance with the Department for Health and Social Care in England’s business appointment rules policy’. His salary was not made public

But his new role follows controversy over previous ‘revolving door’ moves by government ministers and Civil Service officials to the private sector, the FT said.

Nearly a third of all new jobs taken by former ministers and senior officials had a significant overlap with their previous brief, according to research conducted earlier this year by civil society group Transparency International.

Rose Whiffen, senior research officer at Transparency International UK, told the Financial Times: ‘Currently, there are only threadbare safeguards against abuse of the revolving door between the public and private sector.’

She added that this created a ‘risk of privileged information being misused for commercial benefit’.

UsForThem, a campaign group that fought to keep schools open during the pandemic, criticised the move.

Three months after he joined, Moderna feels ready to publicise Jonathan Van-Tam’s role.

‘The public has a right to understand how Moderna, JVT and the Department of Health could have judged this appointment consistent with restoring trust in public health, or remotely ethical.

‘Far too many personal-professional conflicts now riddle the upper echelons of our public health system.’

Vorderman tweeted: ‘BREAKING Jonathan Van Tam, of Vaccine Taskforce, on our screens most nights during lockdowns Well he’s joined MODERNA as a consultant.

‘Allowed within current rules. Last yr Govt did a £1 BILLION deal with Moderna to build a centre in the UK. Nice work if you can get it?’

Tory former minister Brendan Clarke-Smith told MailOnline: ‘I understand her attacking politicians, but civil servants is a new one, especially one as well-liked and respected as Jonathan Van Tam.

‘This is somebody using their expertise to benefit the wider public, rather than their public profile to sell high-interest loans to desperate people.’

Last December the Government signed a 10-year deal with Moderna to produce upwards of 250million vaccines a year in the event of a pandemic.

At the time it was revealed the the investment would give NHS patients access to UK-made mRNA vaccines while a new innovation and technology centre would be created, with 150 highly skilled jobs.

Called JVT by colleagues, Sir Jonathan became a regular figure on TV screens throughout the lockdown, as he imparted his expertise knowledge during some of the daily coronavirus conferences.

The Boston United fan was famed for his memorable metaphors, such as comparing Covid to a ‘goalkeeper that can be beaten’ and the vaccine rollout to the ‘glide path to landing this plane’.

He sparked panic and worry across the UK in the early days of the Covid crisis, when admitting that the country may have to ‘live with’ the virus for years before a vaccine was found.

He also hit headlines in December, 2020 when he warned that Brits may wear face masks for years to come — even after a successful coronavirus vaccine became available.

Sir Jonathan, knighted in last year's New Year Honours list for his services to public health, was a member of the vaccines taskforce during his time as deputy CMO. His job was advertised for up to £149,000. Pictured, Sir Jonathan being made a Knight by the now Prince of Wales in June 2022

Sir Jonathan, knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for his services to public health, was a member of the vaccines taskforce during his time as deputy CMO. His job was advertised for up to £149,000. Pictured, Sir Jonathan being made a Knight by the now Prince of Wales in June 2022

He is prohibited from using privileged information from his time in government to further business interests. Sir Jonathan's part-time consulting role is for the whole global business, not focused on the UK. Pictured, Sir Paul Nurse, Companion of Honour (left), Professor Dame Jennifer Harries, Dame Commander of the British Empire (second left), Professor Kevin Fenton CBE (centre), and Professor Sir Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam, Knight Bachelor (right), with their honours in June 2022

He is prohibited from using privileged information from his time in government to further business interests. Sir Jonathan’s part-time consulting role is for the whole global business, not focused on the UK. Pictured, Sir Paul Nurse, Companion of Honour (left), Professor Dame Jennifer Harries, Dame Commander of the British Empire (second left), Professor Kevin Fenton CBE (centre), and Professor Sir Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam, Knight Bachelor (right), with their honours in June 2022

JVT also clashed with other scientists during the pandemic, including when claiming the outbreak would be ‘a lot calmer’ by Easter 2022, when others warned that it could take years to become a manageable, seasonal virus.

It was announced in January 2022 that he would step down from the role of deputy chief medical officer for England by the end of March.

He returned to the University of Nottingham, where he was previously a professor of health protection before being seconded to the Department of Health in 2017, to join its executive team as Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Medicine & Health Sciences.

It comes as leading experts, including a member of No10’s vaccine advisory panel, argued yesterday that it would be a ‘good idea’ to make Covid jabs available privately.

Pharmaceutical companies are not prohibited from taking Covid jabs to the private market, according to the DHSC.

Darius Hughes, the UK general manager for Moderna, confirmed the company remains ‘open to exploring the possibility and viability of providing Covid vaccines to healthcare providers for private sales’.

It is not clear how much private Covid jabs would cost. The Government paid around £20 per dose to Pfizer during the height of the pandemic.

But Moderna has already said it expects to quadruple its own price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *