Going, going, gong: Five minutes with King's birthday honours recipient Derek Grieve

The head of the vaccinations division in the Scottish Government has received a CBE for services to public health during Covid-19. CSW meets him
Picture credit: Ronstik (Pixabay)

By Civil Service World

18 Aug 2023


What does being recognised in the Birthday Honours List mean to you?

It’s a huge honour, not least as I had the privilege of working with the most talented and dedicated colleagues both within and outwith the civil service, and it is incredibly touching that my contribution has been recognised.

What did your role involve during the Covid-19 crisis?

My role was two-fold. Firstly, as the head of health protection within the Scottish Government, I led the initial response from January 2020. From June onwards, I led the Covid-19 vaccine division, preparing and overseeing the vaccine deployment until November 2022.

How did you end up in that role?

I guess I was in the right place at the right time. It just so happened that I led the health protection division that dealt with health-related outbreaks in 2019. But in June 2020, I was asked to start preparing for a vaccine.

Apart from receiving this honour, what has been your proudest moment at work?

I’ve been fortunate to have a really diverse career in the civil service and have therefore been involved in so many things that I am proud of. But what makes me proud is when my teams deliver what many believe is undeliverable, championing the individual (often the most excluded or vulnerable in society) rather than defending the status quo.

What does it take to do your job well?

Apart from being surrounded by the very best people, it has to be patience, compassion, and never being shy of admitting when you’re wrong.

Tell us one thing we might not know about your job 

As you would expect, I led numerous briefings to ministers and others on the vaccines, but a Skype call with Her Majesty the Queen took on an unexpected twist (for me anyway) when Her Majesty's comments on the call, encouraging people to get vaccinated, became front-page news and were carried on TV and radio. But it did help achieve the policy objective of increasing vaccinations.

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