Vaccine tsar Kate Bingham expected to leave post at end of year

Under-fire vaccines tsar Kate Bingham is expected to leave her post at the end of the year.

Whitehall insiders suggested the head of the vaccine taskforce’s contract ran until the end of the year and she had always intended to leave at that point.

She has come under pressure over a reported £670,000 contract for public relations support and has been forced to deny claims she shared commercially-sensitive information with investors.

Downing Street insisted Boris Johnson had full confidence in Ms Bingham, a venture capitalist married to the Conservative minister Jesse Norman, and praised her work in securing access to potential coronavirus vaccines.

Coronavirus – Tue Oct 13, 2020
Kate Bingham taking part in a trial of the Novavax vaccine candidate in October (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC Radio the £670,000 bill for spin doctors “can’t be justified”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the decision to hire the PR advisers was signed off by officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“Specialist communications support was contracted by the vaccine taskforce for a time-limited period in line with existing public sector recruitment practices and frameworks,” the spokesman said.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had full confidence in her, the spokesman said: “Yes. The work of the vaccine task force is obviously of great importance and we have secured agreements for 350 million doses overall of six leading vaccine candidates.”

Ms Bingham has vehemently denied revealing potentially sensitive information to investors at a conference, branding reports about it as “nonsense” and “inaccurate”.

The Sunday Times reported that at the conference, which was streamed online to anyone for a fee of 200 US dollars (£156), she revealed the names of several companies that the Government had not yet publicly said it was interested in potentially working with.

But Ms Bingham told MPs that she divulged “nothing commercially sensitive, nothing confidential”.

A Whitehall source said Ms Bingham had “always been clear” that she would only remain at the head of the vaccines taskforce until the end of the year.

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