Health secretary Matt Hancock has denied there is a conflict of interest in Sir Patrick Vallance holding £600,000 worth of shares in vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Hancock said he found out from a newspaper about the UK chief scientific adviser’s shares in a drug company contracted to develop a coronavirus vaccine for the Government.
The health secretary said “any suggestion” the scientific adviser was “doing anything other than his level best to try and tackle this virus” was “wrong”.
When asked on LBC radio how he discovered the news of Vallance’s personal shareholding, Hancock said: “Well, I didn’t know about it until I read it in the newspapers.”
Pushed on whether he thought he should have been informed as health secretary, he replied: “No, not particularly. I think there are rules around this and it is important he abided by the rules.”
He added: “The thing about the vaccine is actually the Oxford vaccine is being developed by AstraZeneca, which is one of GlaxoSmithKline’s biggest competitors, so I think if you know Sir Patrick Vallance as I do, any suggestion that he is doing anything other than his level best to try and tackle this virus is wrong.”
The UK now has access to six different Covid-19 vaccine candidates in development, with orders placed in July for 60 million doses from GSK and Sanofi Pasteur, subject to final contract.
The government has also reserved up to 100 million doses of a separate vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Sir Patrick this week said it was possible that small doses of the vaccine could be made available before the end of the year.