Criticism of speed of jab development ‘frustrating’, Dame Sarah Gilbert says

The woman who led the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has admitted to frustration over criticism of how quickly the jab was created.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert’s Oxford university off-shoot Vaccitech was at the forefront of designing a vaccine against the coronavirus at the outbreak of the pandemic.

The Daily Telegraph says Dame Sarah first read about a novel virus spreading through the Chinese city of Wuhan on New Year’s Day in 2020.

Within two weeks she had designed a vaccine for it, and it was approved for use just 351 days later.

Dame Sarah and her team were lauded worldwide for their achievement, receiving multiple awards. Toy company Mattel even created a Barbie doll in Dame Sarah’s honour.

But in an interview with the Telegraph, Dame Sarah said although it was “natural” for people to be hesitant, she found criticism of the speed of the vaccine’s development “frustrating”.

She told the paper it came down to advances in technology and the reality of working amid a worldwide pandemic.

“We were able to overlap processes that you would normally do sequentially,” she said.

“We had less waiting to do between elements of work. But we still followed the normal regulatory pathway. Yes, we did it quickly, but we didn’t miss any steps out.

“It is frustrating when people say development was too fast without saying why that would be.”

Barbie of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert
Dame Sarah holding a Barbie doll made in honour of the Oxford vaccine co-creator (Andy Paradise/Mattel/PA)

Dame Sarah and a member of her vaccine development team, Professor Catherine Green, even took the time to write a book – Vaxxers – aimed at explaining how the jab was created in a readable and precise way.

“We wanted to explain how we did this so fast,” Dame Sarah said.

“We appreciate it is natural for people to be hesitant.”

Dame Sarah’s comments come after she was awarded the prestigious Bold Woman Award by Veuve Clicquot in honour of her work.

Along with global recognition has come a rise to celebrity status, with Dame Sarah telling the Telegraph she had received “loads” of TV offers, but turned them down in order to focus on her work.

When asked if she would consider a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, she responded: “Not even Strictly. I want to get back to the science.”