Knighthood for Chris Whitty as scientists honoured for fight against Covid

Nearly one in five of the annual UK honours are for Covid-related service.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty pictured in November 15, 2021.  Reuters

The medical chiefs leading the UK’s battle against coronavirus have been recognised in the New Year Honours list after a year that saw a relentless rollout of the vaccination programme.

England’s chief medical officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, deputy CMO, Jonathan Van-Tam, and Wales’ and Scotland’s CMOs, Frank Atherton and Dr Gregor Smith, have been given knighthoods.

There are also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief Dr Jenny Harries, and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), after a year in which the threat of new variants arose and more than 130 million vaccinations were administered.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was originally knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list, is elevated to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

The Cabinet Office said nearly one in five (19%) of the honours are for Covid-related service.

Scientists have played a central role in keeping the public informed during briefings throughout the year in response to Covid-19 and are being recognised for services to public health and science.

Sir Patrick said: “I am really pleased to see so many outstanding scientists and engineers recognised in this year’s honours, including those that have been working tirelessly as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

And the MHRA chief, Dame June, said: “I am enormously honoured by this recognition of the substantial contribution which the MHRA has made to the nation’s response to Covid-19 over the last two years.

“This is thanks to the dedication and commitment of all our talented staff, who work so tirelessly to make sure vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices are safe and effective for people across the UK.”

On the list, 15.1% of recipients are from an ethnic minority background, slightly higher than the line-up in June, but just 35.9% of recipients at CBE level and above are women.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “These recipients have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world.

“The honours are an opportunity for us to thank them, as a country, for their dedication and outstanding contribution.”

Updated: January 1st 2022, 4:48 AM