Indian-origin COVID response professionals in Queen's Birthday Honours spotlight
London, Jun 12: Indian-origin healthcare experts involved in the field of COVID-19 vaccine trials and community support efforts are among those in the spotlight at the Queen's Birthday Honours List released on Friday evening.
Kolkata-born Divya Chadha Manek has been honoured with an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the government during the COVID-19 response for her involvement in the research and development of vaccines and the resulting clinical trials. Chadha Manek, now the director of business development and marketing at the British government's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network, was at the heart of ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines could be put through requisite trials for a timely deployment as the Clinical Trials Workstream lead at the UK's Vaccine Taskforce.
"To me, this honour is recognising not just me, but everyone involved in the success of UK vaccine research -- the half-a-million people who signed up to the vaccine research registry and the tens of thousands who took part in the vital COVID-19 vaccine trials here," said Chadha Manek, who moved to the UK as a teenager with a simple message from her Punjabi father. "When I left India for the UK at the age of 18, my father gave me a flight ticket, put GBP 500 in my pocket and told me: 'Be good, do good and do something amazing that you get to meet the Queen'. I lost my father last year, but this honour truly feels like I have done good on his behalf. So thank you so much for this honour," she said.
Chadha Manek was instrumental in supporting companies to bring vaccine trials to the UK, generate the data required for marketing authorisation and help with the development of the Vaccine Research Registry. "The honour feels like a real recognition and nod to clinical research which may not always get the spotlight it truly deserves. It's fantastic to receive this 'thank you' from the Queen," she added.
Chadha Manek represents one of many honours related to COVID-19 pandemic response that make up nearly 23 per cent of the list this year, including damehoods for Sarah Gilbert, Saïd Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, for her pivotal role in developing a vaccine, and Kate Bingham, Chair of the Vaccine Taskforce, for services to the procurement, manufacture and distribution of vaccines. Andrew Pollard, professor of Paediatric Infection, University of Oxford, receives knighthood for services to public health, particularly during COVID-19, for his role in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine development as the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group.
The Queen's Birthday Honours List is released every year to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II's official birthday celebrations held during the second weekend of June. This time, it has a special focus on the extraordinary efforts made by individuals across the country during the pandemic.
"The Queen's Birthday Honours allow us to pay tribute to all those who have gone above and beyond in their service to this country," said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. "Throughout the pandemic, we have seen countless examples of everyday heroes. From those using their expertise to help develop life-saving vaccines, which are now being rolled out successfully to all parts of the UK, to the people who have given time and energy to care for their communities," he said.
"We should take heart from the stories of those receiving honours today and be inspired by their courage and kindness. May they be a reminder of all that we can achieve when we come together as a society," he added. Among the over 30 Indian-origin honours recipients for 2021 include OBEs for Jasvinder Singh Rai, founder and chairman of the Sikh Recovery Network for services to the Sikh community during the pandemic, and Jasjyot Singh of Lloyds Banking Group for services to financial services during the pandemic. Those honoured as Members of the British Empire (MBE) include Devina Banerjee, from Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for services to COVID-19 vaccine development; Anoop Jivan Chauhan, professor of respiratory medicine and executive director of Research, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, for services to respiratory medicine; and Dr Ananthakrishnan Raghuram, consultant physician, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, for services to the NHS and COVID-19 response.
Others across different fields honoured with an OBE include Jagjit Singh Chadha, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, for services to economics and economic policy; actress and writer Lolita Chakrabarti for services to drama; and Sumita Singha for services to architecture.
Those receiving MBEs include Vimalkumar Choksi, Councillor, Ashton Waterloo, Tameside, for services to the community in Greater Manchester; Gurveer Dhami, senior private secretary to the Secretary of State For Education, and Amika Sara George, Founder of #FreePeriods Campaign, both for services to education; Sumit Goyal, consultant oncoplastic surgeon, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, for services to breast cancer and Cardiff Breast Centre Charity; and Priya Guha, Venture Partner, Merian Ventures, and Member, Innovate UK Council, for services to international trade and women-led innovation.
Of the 1,129 recipient of an award this year, 567 are women which is 50 per cent of the total and 62 per cent of the recipients have undertaken outstanding work in their communities, either in a voluntary or paid capacity.