Flat White

A knighthood for AstraZeneca

2 June 2022

9:42 PM

2 June 2022

9:42 PM

The French haven’t let go of their love for royalty entirely, it seems, as AstraZeneca Chief Executive Sir Pascal Soriot receives a knighthood during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Sir Soriot was awarded the knighthood for his services during the pandemic and his role in developing the Covid vaccine with Oxford University.

Born in France, Soriot is a dual citizen who lives in Australia and travels to Britain for business – particularly during the Covid years.

He said:

‘Growing up in France, I had many dreams and hopes for the future, but I never thought I would receive a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen.

‘As an Australian citizen, it is a great privilege to receive this award and an honour to work with so many outstanding people around the world dedicated to following the science in order to bring medicines to patients.

‘This recognition is also theirs and I would like to thank each of them for their commitment to our mission.’

Soriot graced Australia’s headlines at the height of the pandemic with the sale and purchase of multi-million dollar mansions in Sydney during 2021 when residents were locked up by state health orders and vaccine mandates that still prohibit people from working.

News of his knighthood won’t go down well with the millions of Australians who were offered a choice – go broke or get vaccinated.

Questions and serious discussions about the safety and efficacy of Covid vaccines (including AstraZeneca) distributed under emergency approval continue around the world. Some may ask, would it be better to wait until the fallout has finished before handing out awards?

Globally, AstraZeneca has moved away from its famous ‘not-for-profit’ model and is now creating ‘for-profit’ agreements, with Soriot saying that Covid has become ‘endemic’.

‘The virus is becoming endemic which means we have to learn to live with it. We started this to help, but we said we would transition [to making a profit on the vaccine]. It’s not something we see as a huge profit-earner.’

The Covid pandemic has seen profits soar for AstraZeneca (alongside other manufacturers of vaccines and PPE). Governments have used public money to purchase over three billion vaccine doses of AstraZeneca in bulk. AstraZeneca secured immunity from liability against side effects early on, with Rudd Dobber, AstraZeneca’s Executive Vice President and President of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit saying:

‘This is a unique situation where we, as a company, simply cannot take the risk if in … four years the vaccine is showing side effects. In the contracts we have in place, we are asking for indemnification. For most countries, it is acceptable to take that risk on their shoulders because it is in their national interest.’

So far, the media has been unusually adoring of this decision to knight Soriot.

When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a knighthood to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, it was as if every Labor voter had been instructed to walk out into the street and start screeching in outrage. The media used it as the handle of the knife that finally ended his Prime Ministership.

Even Sky News Australia commentator Andrew Bolt called it a decision ‘verging on fatal’ writing, ‘This is just such a pathetically stupid – gosh, I didn’t mean to be that strong because I actually like Tony Abbott very much – but this is just such a very, very, very stupid decision, so damaging that it could be fatal. This is a friendless decision, where his friends would feel stupid defending it.’

This time, because the recipient is ‘deserving’ in the eyes of the press, the knighthood has passed by with barely a whimper. Indeed, the only thing the UK Guardian could find to moan about was the gender and ethnic split of recipients.

Are there double standards when it comes to handing out these awards?

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