A fascinating new exhibit has opened at the British Science Museum that recounts the historic Covid vaccine race.
Jab heroine Kate Bingham’s scribbled notes from her time heading up the vaccine task-force and the syringe given to Britain’s first Pfizer recipient Maggie Keenan are just two of the stand-out items showcased.
The exhibition also features other personal artefacts, such as the mug of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, who co-developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, and leggings with virus motifs worn by Elisa Granato, the first volunteer to receive a vaccine during clinical trials in 2020.
The museum began collecting objects in February 2020, before Britain was shunted into a two-year cycle of on and off lockdowns.
The glass vial that held Margaret Keenan’s first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine. Grandmother-of-four Ms Keenan, now 92, received the world’s first approved vaccine in Coventry on December 8, 2020. Ms Keenan, who likes to be called Maggie, is a former jewellery shop assistant who only retired six years ago, in her mid 80s.
A scribbled-in notebook used by Dame Catherine Elizabeth Bingham DBE, known as Kate Bingham, who headed up Britain’s world-beating vaccine task-force. The scribbles detail key decision-making points and reference the various vaccines such as Moderna and AstraZenenca
A pair of leggings, with distinct virus and bacteria design motifs, worn by Dr Elisa Granato on the April 23, 2020, when she was the very first volunteer vaccinated in the clinical trial of the Covid vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and later in partnership with AstraZeneca
The genetic code for the virus that causes Covid. Highlighted in pink is the sequence responsible for producing the spike protein.
The exhibition features more than 100 objects and artworks that illustrate the world’s response to Covid, such as the vial that contained the first vaccine and the virus’s genetic code.
There are also a pair of leggings on display that have the distinct virus and bacteria design motifs.
The leggings were worn by Dr Elisa Granato on the April 23, 2020, when she was the very first volunteer vaccinated in the clinical trial of the Covid vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and later in partnership with AstraZeneca.
There are other personal artefacts of those at the heart of the battle to beat the virus featured at the exhibition.
These include the laptop and mug that Teresa Lambe, co-developer of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine and a professor of vaccinology and immunology, relied upon during a weekend of intense work studying the chemical make-up of the virus.
A mug with ‘Keep calm and develop vaccines’ written on it that was owned by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, an English vaccinologist, who co-developed the Oxford AstraZeneca covid vaccine. Professor Gilbert heard in January 2020 that four people were suffering in Wuhan, China of a pneumonia-like illness and within two weeks a vaccine was designed at Oxford
Filtration and other equipment used by Pfizer to make their vaccine, which was the first approved vaccine for the virus
Museum staff pose with a three-dimensional drawing entitled ‘The Sphere That Changed the World’, created by Angela Palmer
A piece of artwork called ‘Hope in Balance’ by Junko Mori, which shows a virus being surrounded by antibodies
The entrance of the exhibition, showing news coverage of the virus outbreak, PPE-clad medical staff, people making face masks and images of public transport where everyone is wearing masks
Part of the exhibition, called Injecting Hope: The race for a COVID-19 vaccine, showing a hospital chair where vaccines may be administered
The leggings worn by Elisa Granato, who volunteered to receive the vaccine during clinical trials in April 2020. Dr Granato is a molecular microbiologist in the Departments of Zoology and Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, where she researches bacterial interactions and how they evolved, including the significance of features of bacteria that contribute to disease.
Exhibition curator Stewart Emmens said that once they had the understanding about Covid’s composition, Professor Lambe ‘essentially sat at home, on her laptop, in her pyjamas, drinking lots of cups of tea, designing a vaccine’.
He added: ‘We have a laptop, we have a mug and we have a T-shirt on display here.
‘It’s nice, in amongst all the science, to really drive it home that there are people behind this, just normal people doing their jobs.’
Another personal artefact is Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert’s mug that reads ‘Keep calm and develop vaccines’.
The exhibition is part of a major project by the Science Museum Group, which will open in three international venues in November.
The group partnered with the National Council of Science Museums in India and the Guangdong Science Center in China.
The exhibitions will highlight how the virus was handled in different parts of the world and each of the three projects will have content specifically related to that country’s pandemic experience.
A piece of artwork called ‘The Sphere That Changed the World’ as part of the London exhibition
The vial that contained the first dose of Covid vaccine ever administered. It was given to V-day hero Maggie Keenan in Coventry on December 8, 2020. She made history by becoming the first person to receive the injection outside of medical trials and hailed it as a ‘massive day’ for her and for ‘the rest of the world’
The notebook of Kate Bingham, who headed up the vaccine taskforce and has been hailed a heroine. She stepped down in December 2020, seven months after taking up the important, and has since been praised for her work. Shegave up her job to work 15-hour days, seven days as the vaccine chair.
Visitors exploring the entrance to Injecting Hope: The race for a COVID-19 vaccine, at the British Science Museum
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert’s mug that reads ‘Keep calm and develop vaccines’ encased in glass at the exhibit. Professor Gilbert’s Covid vaccine efforts are not all she has been hailed for, as she also led the development and testing of the universal flu vaccine.
The vial that contained the first dose of Covid vaccine ever administered. It was given to V-day hero Maggie Keenan in Coventry on December 8, 2020. Ms Keenan, who likes to be called Maggie, is a former jewellery shop assistant who only retired six years ago, in her mid 80s.
The British Science Museum began collecting objects related to the Covid pandemic in April 2020 as Mr Emmens said objects associated with epidemics and pandemics are missing from history.
The first part of the exhibit features news coverage of lockdowns and images of empty capital cities.
It also shows empty shelves from panic-buying, children being home-schooled and food delivery, taking visitors back to the early days of the pandemic.
Visitors will then explore the development and testing of pandemic products before getting an insight into the vaccine roll-out plans.
Sir Ian Blatchford, director and chief executive of the Science Museum Group, said: ‘Collaboration was, and remains, vital in combating this truly global issue.
‘So I am delighted that this project enables us to build on the successes of our international tours such as Superbugs: The Fight For Our Lives with our partners in India and China, to engage an even wider audience in exploring the response to the Covid pandemic.’
The ticketed, free exhibition, titled Injecting Hope: The race for a COVID-19 vaccine, opened yesterday and will run until January 7, 2024.
Covid vaccine heroine Kate Bingham warns UK isn’t ready for another pandemic and says current jabs are ‘NOT good enough’
The UK is going ‘backwards’ when it comes to pandemic preparedness, the former chair of the Vaccines Taskforce has said.
Dame Kate Bingham, who led the organisation between May and December 2020 said she is ‘baffled’ by the decisions to ‘dismantle’ many of the capabilities she helped set up.
Speaking yesterday at a joint session of the Health and Social Care and the Science and Technology Committees, Dame Kate said the UK is only ‘marginally’ in a better place to deal with another pandemic.
She said: ‘What’s going wrong is there has been no expert or leader that’s put in place to coordinate the activities.
Dame Kate Bingham, who led the organisation between May and December 2020 said she is ‘baffled’ by the decisions to ‘dismantle’ many of the capabilities she helped set up
‘People that understand manufacturing scale up, clinical development, regulation… all of that has gone.
‘We’ve got the capability in the country, but it can’t be done in a vacuum, we need to have an expert leader to bring that together to try and get us back into a better position.’
In comparison, she said other countries were better prepared to deal with any future pandemic.
She added: ‘(European countries) were slow to get off the blocks to begin with, but they’ve now done what needs to be done which is to recognise this is not going to be the last pandemic and we need to have a better and quicker approach to identifying potential pathogens, and maybe being able to build vaccines very rapidly against new variants or new pathogens.
‘They are doing exactly what we’ve recommended for the UK, but our approach seems to have been to go backwards rather than to continue the momentum.
‘I would recommend to the to the new Prime Minister and ministers to go ahead and read the recommendations we gave in December 2020.
‘Those recommendations haven’t changed, I haven’t shared them with Europe, but they are certainly following a lot of them.’
Dame Kate also said the vaccines in use are ‘not good enough’ and more needed to be done to develop jabs that stop transmission.