Dame Kate Bingham has come out swinging at Matt Hancock, after leaked WhatsApp messages revealed the former health secretary had called the former vaccines tsar “wacky” and “totally unreliable”.  

Bingham won plaudits and a damehood for her work heading the UK Vaccines Taskforce (VTF) in the early days of the pandemic – the UK became the first Western country to start vaccinating citizens in December 2020.  

But the leaked messages shed light on just how much Hancock clashed with Bingham behind the scenes.

In an exchange with Boris Johnson in February 2021, Hancock accused Bingham and Dr Clive Dix, former chairman of the vaccine taskforce, of blocking the purchase of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India four months earlier in Oct 2020:

Yet in response to the accusation, Bingham told the Telegraph that Hancock had got the wrong end of the stick:

“Before I left [the head of vaccine taskforce role], the VTF had discussed buying vaccines from India but was persuaded against doing so as the VTF did not think the MHRA would be able to approve vaccines from India on the required timescale.

“These vaccines had been funded by international organisations to provide vaccines to low-income countries, including India itself.  The vaccines from India were originally intended for developing countries. The second half of the vaccine order from India that was placed in 2021 (after I left the VTF) was halted by the Indian government.

She went on:

“These WhatsApps suggest that Matt Hancock was not aware of the published and agreed government vaccine procurement policy, did not read the reports by and about the work of the Vaccine Taskforce, and did not understand the difference between complex biological manufacturing and PPE procurement.

Bingham is not the only one to say what she really thinks about “Moonshot” Matt following the lockdown leaks. Dr Dix said Hancock was the “most difficult of all the ministers because he didn’t take time to understand anything… He was all over the place, a bit like a headless chicken.”

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