Meet Professor Andrew Pollard

In his capacity as Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Professor Andrew Pollard has become a well-known public figure over the past year, appearing regularly in Covid-related news – but he has long been a well-known authority in paediatric medicine for his research activities in clinical trials of new and improved vaccines for adults and children, and the surveillance of invasive bacterial diseases. He is Course Director for our Paediatric Infectious Diseases programme.  

We asked Professor Pollard about his work in Paediatric Infectious Diseases and with regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

What led you into Paediatric Infectious Diseases? 

Infectious diseases remain the leading global causes of death in childhood and I have focussed my career on the treatment of children with infections in my clinical practice and vaccine prevention of infection in populations to improve child health around the world. 

Your work has taken you to Nepal, Bangladesh and Malawi. What is the importance of these regions in the field of paediatric infectious diseases? 

Infectious diseases have a huge burden in resource-poor settings, and so much of my research has focussed in these areas of greatest need. 

Many resource-poor regions in the world lack enough doctors per head of population to provide the care that is needed. We need to continue to  train new doctors for all settings who focus on the important diseases of childhood and to improve knowledge and understanding among those who are already trained. 

You direct Oxford University’s part-time Postgraduate Diploma and a Master’s in Paediatric Infectious Diseases: what can students expect from this course? 

The programme is open to doctors who want to expand their knowledge of paediatric infectious disease to improve their own clinical practice and to support specialisation in this important area of medicine. 

Students can expect to follow the internationally renowned syllabus and to complete the course with extensive knowledge of paediatric infectious disease to use in the clinical practice  

On the subject of the pandemic: it’s tempting to draw parallels between today’s Covid-19 outbreak and the 1918 pandemic. How similar or different are these two episodes? 

The impact on humanity is strikingly similar between the two pandemics, but the available tools today to respond to the pandemic threat are in stark contrast – scientific understanding of the biology, transmission, importance of physical distancing and development of over 300 vaccines. 

How were Oxford’s and the other vaccines developed so quickly? 

The existing knowledge of viral genetics, vaccine development and human immunity meant that design of new vaccines could be done in days. Support from Governments for funding of programmes and rapid review by regulators allowed clinical development to move at huge scale and speed. 

The Oxford jab seems to be cheaper and easier to store than other vaccines – which sounds like good news for worldwide deployment, especially in developing countries? 

The efforts for development of the vaccine have very much focussed on global access with a dispersed manufacturing programme, a not-for-profit arrangement for global supply and fridge-temperature distribution that makes distribution to all corners of the world possible. 

You have an impressive history in mountain climbing – first British ascent of Jaonli (6632m) in 1988 and Chamlang in 1991 (7309m), deputy leader of the successful 1994 British Medical Everest Expedition. Are you still climbing?  

I started climbing at university and do enjoy getting into the mountains when there is time to do so. 

 

Andrew Pollard is Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at Oxford Children’s Hospital and recently completed a 3 year term as Vice Master of St Cross College, Oxford. He chairs the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and was chair of the European Medicines Agency scientific advisory group on vaccines for 8 years until 2020. He is a member of WHO’s SAGE. 

Published 18 February 2021