Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, the UK’s former deputy chief medical officer who became a household name during the pandemic, has become a senior medical consultant to the Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna.
Known by the initials “JVT” and remembered for the striking metaphors he used during Downing Street briefings on the progress of the virus, he took up the role as part-time clinical adviser to the American biotechnology company on 2 May.
Van-Tam, a professor who was knighted in the 2022 new year honours, was a member of the government’s vaccine taskforce during the pandemic, which made decisions on supply contracts for Covid jabs and investments in manufacturing and clinical opportunities.
Announcing the appointment on LinkedIn, Moderna said Van-Tam would be reporting to its chief medical officer, Paul Burton. It declined to disclose his advisory fee but said the appointment was in accordance with the Department of Health and Social Care’s business appointment rules.
Burton said: “Professor Van-Tam’s significant experience and expertise as a specialist in influenza, including its epidemiology, transmission, vaccinology and pandemic preparedness, as well as a globally renowned academic and educator, will be a vital asset to Moderna as we work to improve population health security.”
Van-Tam is prohibited from using privileged information from his time in government to further his business interests, as first reported by the Financial Times. He will stay on at Nottingham University as senior strategy adviser in medicine.
When Van-Tam left his government role, the then health secretary, Sajid Javid, praised him for his unique approach to explaining crucial information to the public. “JVT’s one-of-a-kind approach to communicating science over the past two years has no doubt played a vital role in protecting and reassuring the nation, and made him a national treasure.”
Van-Tam became known for delivering Covid updates in a lighthearted way, often using football or other analogies. In June, he was appointed chair of the Lincolnshire Football Association.
A season-ticket holder at Boston United, the Lincolnshire team that plays in the sixth tier of the English football league, Van Tam often turned to football to find the words he wanted.
In late 2020, he told the BBC that in the early stages of the pandemic the “away team gave us an absolute battering”, adding: “In the 70th minute we’ve now got an equaliser. OK, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it.”