March 22, 2022 10.07 am

Jonathan Van-Tam describes “humbling experience” of being given freedom of Boston

JVT’s efforts have been recognised in his hometown

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, has been given the freedom of the borough of Boston to celebrate his achievements in helping to navigate the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The honour was bestowed upon Professor Van-Tam, 58, at a special full Boston Borough Council meeting on Monday, March 21, held at the Jakemans Community Stadium, where his beloved Boston United play football.

In attendance were various family and friends invited by JVT himself, and he was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Boston by the Mayor of the town, councillor Frank Pickett.

Council officials were in attendance along with invited guests. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Freedom of the Borough is an honour awarded to someone of distinction that has rendered eminent services to the Borough, demonstrating outstanding achievements that bring pride to the area, a description which aptly fits the role of Professor Sir Van-Tam.

It was an evening to remember in JVT’s hometown of Boston. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Van-Tam, who won The Lincolnite‘s Person of the Year award in 2020 for his efforts as England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer during the coronavirus pandemic, regularly flew the flag for Lincolnshire at the regular news briefings at Downing Street at the height of lockdown.

It wasn’t just at the briefings where JVT would support the effort against COVID-19, he also got his gloves on and administered vaccinations to a number of people in Boston, including the Boston United players, as well as the then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted a photo of himself being given the coronavirus vaccine by Boston’s Jonathan Van-Tam. | Image: @MattHancock

He grew up in the Lincolnshire town of Boston and attended Boston Grammar School, where his father was a teacher, before graduating from the University of Nottingham in 1987.

This led to an illustrious public health career, in which he has advised major groups such as the World Health Organisation and the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

A closer look at the Freedom of the Borough award. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

He joined the Department of Health and Social Care in 2017 on secondment from the University of Nottingham, but after a challenging few years in the world of public health, Van-Tam will now be stepping down as Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the end of March.

He will be returning to the University of Nottingham in a new role as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Faculty of Medicine and Health Services upon his departure from the Department of Health and Social Care.

I wonder how JVT will use his new-found power in Boston! | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

JVT was made MBE in 1998, and then knighted in the New Year Honours list at the start of 2022, but earning honorary freedom of his hometown is something that he said he never could have expected.

Jonathan Van-Tam gave a speech after accepting his honour. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “This honour is actually really, really significant to me because it’s the highest honour of the borough that Boston can give to anyone or any organisation. It’s just a very humbling experience for your own town to do this to you.

“It has been a privilege serving this country in such a difficult time and something I do not regret for one single second.

“I don’t feel worthy of this accolade so it’s deeply humbling and shocking to receive the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Boston.”

Cllr Frank Pickett, the Mayor of Boston. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston, councillor Frank Pickett, added: “We’re incredibly grateful for the work that Professor Van-Tam has done over the past two years in helping respond to the pandemic.

“He has played an incredibly important part of the country’s response and has arguably become one of the most recognisable people in the country. The Honorary Freedom of Boston is the perfect way to recognise those contributions and his ongoing support for the town.

“Once you are awarded the freedom of the borough you are allowed to drive your sheep over the Town Bridge and into the Market Place. Good luck with that.”

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite