Health News

UK vaccine chief to step down at year-end, Hancock says

FILE PHOTO: British Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks in the House of Commons Chamber about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, October 15, 2020. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS.

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine taskforce will step down at the end of the year and her departure is not related to criticism over a 670,000 pound ($881,000) public relations bill, the health minister said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Kate Bingham had always been due to leave at the end of the year after accepting a 6-month contract.

Bingham, who normally leads biotech investments, has been criticised after the Sunday Times reported that she used eight full-time consultants from London PR agency Admiral Associates to oversee her media strategy.

“It was always a six month job and she was always clear that she couldn’t do it for longer than that,” Hancock told Times Radio.

Bingham, who was appointed chair of the taskforce on May 16, was not immediately available for comment.

Under Bingham’s leadership, the taskforce has secured supply deals for more than 350 million doses of six different COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including the Pfizer shot which is leading the race following positive trial data.

($1 = 0.7603 pounds)

Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Rebekah Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey/Guy Faulconbridge