Ex-medical chief Jonathan Van-Tam takes job with Covid vaccine giant Moderna

Move may spark fresh questions over ‘revolving door’ between government and business

Jane Dalton
Thursday 17 August 2023 22:04 BST

Van-Tam urged caution during the pandemic

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s former deputy chief medical officer who became one face of the government Covid pandemic response, has taken a job as senior medical consultant at vaccine giant Moderna.

The move is likely to prompt fresh consideration of the “revolving door” for prominent government figures who move into business roles.

Sir Jonathan, who became a household name during lockdowns, was awarded a knighthood in last year’s New Year Honours list for his services to public health.

Known as “JVT”, he took up the role as part-time adviser to Moderna in May, according to official filings, the FT reports.

He was a member of the vaccines taskforce, which the government said made decisions on “all vaccine supply contracts and major investments in manufacturing and clinical opportunities”.

The government bought 77 million Moderna vaccines, in two batches, during the coronavirus pandemic, fewer than it bought of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer jabs.

Sir Jonathan left his government role in March last year.

Partygate investigator Sue Gray faced questions earlier this year when she resigned from her Civil Service job to take a role with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as his chief of staff.

Analysis has previously found that government ministers and Civil Service officials have benefited from their time in office by moving into lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Five years ago, Labour called for a “radical overhaul” of the process for approving former ministers’ new jobs, saying appointments showed the current system was “not fit for purpose”.

Earlier this year, Transparency International UK found that nearly a third of all new jobs taken by former ministers and senior officials had a significant overlap with their previous brief.

Rose Whiffen, senior research officer at Transparency International UK, told the FT: “There are only threadbare safeguards against abuse of the revolving door between the public and private sector,” adding this created “a risk of privileged information being misused for commercial benefit”.

Moderna said the appointment was in accordance with the health department’s rules for officials who take up jobs in industry.

The ex-deputy chief medical officer, a keen football fan, gained public affection for delivering health messages with a dose of humour and colourful sporting analogies.

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