University professor opposes government claims the ‘best of Britain’ is behind coronavirus vaccine trials

Health minister Matt Hancock leaves Downing Street.

Health minister Matt Hancock leaves Downing Street. - Credit: PA

A professor has called on a government minister to stress the international nature of the Oxford university team leading the race for a coronavirus vaccine after claiming the efforts were the 'best of Britain'.

Matt Hancock tweeted his support for an agreement between pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to work together to find a coronavirus vaccine.

The minister wrote: 'Hugely welcome news that @AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with @OxfordUni to take its promising #coronavirus vaccine to scale.

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'The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced in the world. Bringing together the best British science and the best of British business will give us the best possible shot at a vaccine.'

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Pro-EU campaigner and Northumbria University professor Bueltmann expressed her criticism, posting: 'The science is international because of the team. The business is British-Swedish. There really is no need, nor is it appropriate, to spin the development of this vaccine into some exclusively 'best of British' thing.

'I really can't overstate how wrong this sort of framing is — and would be by any country. No matter where a successful vaccine is eventually developed, it will be the result of international collaboration and expertise, enabled too by past international collaboration etc.'

Bueltmann received support online. Alison Graham wrote: 'No country, at this time, should be crowing about its technical superiority. This global crisis needs a global scientific response. We must all work together and share information and results with the rest of the nations.'

David Olusoga posted: 'Without doubt but why frame it in nationalistic terms, it's a global pandemic, if a vaccine is developed and distributed on at scale it will inevitably be a global effort.'

Writer Clare Saponia pointed out a worldwide approach is needed to find a cure: 'Matt Hancock would do well to remember this isn't a race 'against' - but both 'with' and 'for' the rest of the world. #Science wouldn't be where it is without global collaboration.'

Ian Stevens said the Oxford team had worked in tandem with a lab in Italy.

One person asked what would happen if the trials were unsuccessful, writing the government might 'blame' it on the Swedish contingent in the joint venture.

Others disagreed. One, Bill Heywood, said: 'I disagree, it is perfectly normal to celebrate the achievements of an international team at a British institution.

'When a British club wins an international sporting event, it is an achievement of that club, even if the majority of the players are not British.'

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