Sarah will always be a Kettering girl, says brother of Covid vaccine professor

A stone marking her work was dedicated yesterday

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 10:32 am
Tom Gilbert with the stone.

The brother of Kettering's Professor Sarah Gilbert has said she feels "honoured" after a stone marking her incredible Covid-19 vaccine work was laid in the town.

The Oxford University scientist, who designed the AstraZeneca jab which is currently saving lives around the world, grew up in Mitchell Street and went to Kettering High School for Girls.

She 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.

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The ceremony yesterday.

Her work on the Covid-19 vaccine has now been marked with a stone in Kettering's historical timeline in the Market Place, alongside other town milestones.

And, speaking at a ceremony to dedicate the stone yesterday (Monday), her younger brother Tom said she was chuffed to have been recognised in her hometown.

He said: "She was honoured when she heard this was being done.

"Her whole background is very Kettering and to have this recognition is wonderful."

Prof Sarah Gilbert.

Prof Gilbert, a mum to triplets, attended Park Road Junior School before passing her 11+ to gain a place at the selective girls' school where she passed nine O-Levels and played the oboe in the school's orchestra.

She 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.

Tom, who is a senior manager at Rushton Hall, said she got her brains from her parents.

He said: "She was the first to go to university from our family.

The new timeline stone.

"That came from her education here."

Her Covid-19 vaccine is now being used around the world and is cheaper and far more accessible than other jabs which have also been approved.

Her work also saw her win the prestigious Albert Medal, putting her name alongside people such as Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie.

Tom, who is 16 months younger, recently got invited for his vaccine but got no choice in which he received - and was given the Pfizer jab rather than the one made by his sister. His wife, Sarah's sister-in-law, did however receive the Oxford vaccine.

The Covid jab has received the biggest attention of all of Prof Gilbert's work, but it is not her first worldwide work of note.

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 she led the development and testing of the universal flu vaccine.

Prof Gilbert doesn't come back to Kettering much now, with her parents dying in 2016 and 2017, and cycles to Oxford University every day, often working from 7am to 9pm.

Tom said: "She will bring us back to our normal lives.

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

The stone was dedicated yesterday at a ceremony attended by Kettering's mayor, Cllr James Burton, mayoress Lorraine Burton, Rev David Walsh, Lord Lieutenant for Northamptonshire James Saunders Watson and High Sheriff Paul Parsons.

A stone to mark the end of Kettering Council, which will be replaced by the new North Northamptonshire Council on Thursday (April 1), has also been laid.

Cllr Burton, who held the ceremony as one of his final acts of his mayoral year, said Prof Gilbert is a daughter of Kettering.

He said: "Here at Kettering we are all immensely proud of what she has achieved."