Queen Elizabeth pays tribute to key women in UK rapid vaccination campaign
LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II used her list of birthday honors to celebrate those at the forefront of the UK
LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II used her list of birthday honors to celebrate those at the forefront of the rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the UK in recent months, which has been credited with reversing the country’s response to the pandemic.
Two of the most prominent women in the vaccination campaign, Professor Sarah Gilbert of the University of Oxford, and venture capital firm Kate Bingham, former head of the UK Vaccine Task Force, have been recognized as ladies in the list published Friday night.
Gilbert was instrumental in the development of the vaccine made by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, while Bingham was widely praised for the success of the country’s vaccine procurement program.
Although the UK has recorded the highest number of virus-related deaths in Europe, with nearly 128,000 people losing their lives, the vaccination program has been considered one of the fastest deployments and most consistent in the world.
In December, a 90-year-old British grandmother became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine outside of a trial. Since then, around 61% of the UK population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while around 43% have received two. The rollout, which was primarily age-based, was extended earlier this week to 25-29 year olds.
A multitude of specialists from the scientific community are also honored for their efforts in the development of vaccines, the conduct of clinical trials, the performance of tests and the monitoring of coronavirus infections. The selfless work of people to help others during the pandemic, from running free taxis for key workers to making bottles of hand sanitizer, has also been recognized by the 95-year-old monarch.
Of the 1,129 people honored, 62% are recognized for their community service, with nearly a quarter recommended for their activities during the pandemic.
One of them was Rhys Mallows, 25, who received a British Empire Medal for helping to reuse Mallows Bottling, a Welsh company, to produce over a million bottles of hand sanitizer at following an agreement with a Scottish distiller. He estimates that around 81 million hands have been disinfected.
“We’re not scientists, but we really felt that if we could give people little bullets to protect themselves, it would make a big difference,” he said.
Siblings John Brownhill and Amanda Guest also received the British Empire Medal for founding Food4Heroes, which delivered over 200,000 meals to the National Health Service.
“You see in times of crisis the strengths of humanity, I think,” said Brownhill.
The winners are also a record in terms of diversity, with 15% of winners coming from an ethnic minority. Meanwhile, 9% of those honored had a disability and 5% identified as LGBT. More women, 50.2%, than men are on the list for the first time since 2015.
The winners are chosen by committees of officials on the basis of nominations from the government and the public. The awards are usually presented by the Queen or a senior royal official acting in her place during investitures at Buckingham Palace, but the pandemic has changed all that, not least because the Queen lives in Windsor Castle.
The list also celebrates the achievements of people in the limelight.
In the world of sport, Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling received an MBE, becoming a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his efforts to promote racial equality in sport.
His prize coincides with the start of the European Championship, in which Sterling is expected to play for England. In matches leading up to the tournament, England players were booed by fans for taking the knee as a gesture against intolerance
His England team-mate Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson also received an MBE after raising £ 4million ($ 5.7million) for the NHS from other Premier League footballers.
Former England coach Roy Hodgson and former tennis star and presenter Sue Barker both received CBEs, making them Commanders of the Order of the British Empire.
In the entertainment world, actor Jonathan Pryce, who will play the Queen’s late husband Prince Philip in the final seasons of Netflix’s royal drama The Crown, has been knighted. And veteran performer Engelbert Humperdinck also received an MBE for services to music.
“The fact that the UK continues to honor those who work in the arts recognizes the great contribution artists make to the way we live our lives,” said Pryce.
Lulu, the veteran singer, also received a CBE alongside keyboardist and songwriter Rick Wakeman, whose career has seen him collaborate with a diverse group – from David Bowie to Black Sabbath.
The youngest recipient was Amika George, 21, founder of the FreePeriods campaign, who was named MBE for Educational Services after campaigning against menstrual poverty.
Among the oldest recipients was Sylvia McKeegan, 95, who received a BEM for her decades of supporting older people, new mothers and children in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Pan Pylas, The Associated Press