Hancock hails new Vaccine Taskforce head

Former NHS London chair Richard Sykes appointed to replace Kate Bingham
Sir Richard Sykes Credit: Brunel University

By Jim Dunton

15 Jun 2021

Health secretary Matt Hancock has appointed a longstanding pharmaceutical industry leader and former chair of NHS London as the new head of the government’s Vaccine Taskforce.

Sir Richard Sykes is a non-executive director at PDS Biotechnology, president of the Research and Development Society and the chancellor of Brunel University. He is also a former chairman and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. Sykes left the firm in 2002.

Sykes replaces Kate Bingham who stepped down as chair of the Vaccine Taskforce at the end of last year. Bingham was made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours at the weekend in recognition of her contribution to the fight against coronavirus.

Hancock said the Vaccine Taskforce had done a tremendous job of securing the world’s first clinically-proven vaccines for Covid-19.

“It’s fantastic that Sir Richard will be joining our renowned team with his extensive expertise,” he said.

“I look forward to working closely with him going forward to ensure the Covid-19 vaccination programme continues to save lives and the country is well prepared for any health threats for years to come.”

Sykes said he was “delighted” to be joining a brilliant team to continue its incredibly important work.

“I am determined to make sure the UK remains in the best possible position to beat this virus and has the tools it needs to respond to future public health threats,” he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care said Sykes would be overseeing the Vaccine Taskforce’s work as the UK’s vaccination programme continued at unprecedented pace.

It said its ongoing work included helping with preparations for any potential booster programmes and working to make the UK a global centre of excellence for the next generation of vaccines.

More than 41m people across the UK have now been vaccinated against Covid-19; more than 29m people have had two doses.

Sykes conducted an independent review of the strategy and goals of the Vaccine Taskforce in December 2020.

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