Kettering's Sarah made a Dame for work on life-saving Covid jab

Congratulations, Dame Sarah Gilbert!

Friday, 11th June 2021, 10:30 pm
Prof Sarah Gilbert.

Fifty years ago she was a shy schoolgirl in Kettering. Today, she's Dame Sarah Gilbert.

That's because the scientist, who grew up and went to school in the town, has been given a damehood for her incredible work on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine which has saved thousands of lives around the world.

The Oxford Professor of Vaccinology received the award for services to science and public health development in Covid vaccine development in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2021, revealed tonight (Friday).

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The Kettering Historical Timeline stone.

Her proud brother Tom Gilbert, who is a senior manager at Rushton Hall, told the Northants Telegraph: "I couldn't be prouder, it's absolutely fantastic and well-deserved.

"It's incredible for a really shy young girl to get to where she is now and achieve what she has done."

Prof Gilbert, who is 59 and a mum to triplets, attended Park Road Junior School before passing her 11+ to gain a place at the selective Kettering High School for Girls in Lewis Road in 1973, where she passed nine O-Levels and played the oboe in the school's orchestra.

She was described by former classmates as quiet but hard-working and was part of a musical family, with her mum Hazel involved with the town's operatic society. Hazel worked at Sunnylands Kindergarten, with Prof Gilbert's dad Clifford an office manager at Loake.

Proud brother Tom Gilbert with the stone.

Prof Gilbert, who grew up in Mitchell Street, later went to university in Norwich - becoming the first person in her family to do so - before going on to have a huge impact in the field of vaccinology.

As well as her work on the Covid-19 vaccine she also took part in important work on malaria, which has doesn't get as much attention because it's an issue in poorer countries, and led the development and testing of the universal flu vaccine.

Her brother Tom added: "I know that she is an Oxford professor, but to me she will always be a Kettering girl."

Since her rise to fame in the past year Prof Gilbert has won the prestigious Albert Medal, putting her name alongside people such as Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie.

Her work was also marked with a stone in Kettering's historical timeline in the Market Place.

Kate Bingham, who chaired the vaccine taskforce and was pivotal to the UK's successful jab rollout, has also been given a damehood.

Prof Gilbert's Oxford University colleague, Professor Andrew Pollard has been given a knighthood for services to public health, particularly during Covid-19.

A total of 23 per cent of this year's 1,129 honours recipients were recommended for Covid-19 service.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “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.

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen countless examples of every day 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.

“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.”