Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, a key U.K. pandemic response figure, has joined vaccine maker Moderna, re-opening the debate about Government officials transitioning to the private sector roles and the potential misuse of privileged information. The Independent has the story.
Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, who became a prominent figure in the U.K. Government’s pandemic response, has taken a role as Senior Medical Consultant at Covid vaccine maker Moderna.
The U.K.’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer, who gained celebrity status among the British public during the pandemic and was affectionately known as ‘JVT’, took up the role as part-time adviser to Moderna in May, according to official filings.
As part of his duties during the pandemic, Van-Tam was a member of the Vaccine Taskforce, which the Government said made decisions on “all vaccine supply contracts and major investments in manufacturing and clinical opportunities”. He stepped down from his Government role in March 2022.
Widely praised for his communication skills, Van-Tam often deployed elaborate sporting analogies to portray various stages of the pandemic. Describing the vaccine rollout in December 2020, he said: “It’s clear in the first half, the away team gave us an absolute battering… In the 70th minute we’ve now got an equaliser. Okay, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it.”
Van-Tam’s move follows controversy over previous ‘revolving door’ moves between Government and business.
In 2020 there was an outcry after former U.K. Chancellor Sajid Javid took a high-paying role at JPMorgan. A scandal erupted the following year when it emerged that former Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied members of the Government on behalf of Greensill Capital.
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 U.K., said the Government should prohibit ex-senior civil servants and ministers from taking up positions where they have had substantial responsibility for policy that is relevant to the hiring company.
“Currently, there are only threadbare safeguards against abuse of the revolving door between the public and private sector,” she said, adding this created a “risk of privileged information being misused for commercial benefit”.
A Government spokesperson said: “Professor Jonathan Van-Tam worked tirelessly to serve patients and the public through the pandemic” and added that there were “robust rules in place for senior civil servants moving from Government to other roles”.
Moderna said the appointment was in accordance with the Health Department’s rules for officials who take up jobs in industry. Paul Burton, Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, said the professor’s “significant experience and expertise as a specialist in influenza” will be a “vital asset” to the company. The part-time consulting role is for the whole global business, not focused on the U.K.
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Stop Press: UsForThem have produced a template letter that you can send to the Health Secretary and the Shadow Health Secretary to express your concern about JVT’s new job.