Barbie doll of COVID-19 vaccine creator Sarah Gilbert celebrates girls and women in scientific careers

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert has welcomed the development of a Barbie doll in likeness

(Image credit: Alamy)

A Barbie doll of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, a leading designer of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, has been created in honor of the British scientist's ground-breaking work in fighting the deadly virus. 

Toymaker Mattel launched the figurine to recognize Gilbert's incredible contribution to developing vaccines, which are estimated to have saved over 60,000 lives in England so far, and to inspire more young girls to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). The doll shows the University of Oxford Professor wearing a black trouser suit, white shirt, black shoes, and glasses. Its hair is also long and red, just like Gilbert's. 

In response to the honor, the Vaccitech founder said, "It's a very strange concept to have a Barbie doll created in my likeness. I hope it will be part of making it more normal for girls to think about careers in science." 

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Sarah Gilbert achieved worldwide acclaim when her vaccine, often known simply as the AstraZeneca, received the green light to be rolled out in December 2020—bringing hope to billions of people after a devastating year. 

In early 2020, the Northamptonshire vaccinologist led a team of experts at a research institute in Oxford to create the Vaxzevria jab, which is now one of the four approved vaccines available in the UK. The development of the vaccine surprisingly only took a few weeks, as Gilbert and her colleagues had already been preparing to fight the next global health crisis after witnessing the horrors of the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016. 

"We'd been planning for disease X, we'd been waiting for disease X, and I thought this could be it," Gilbert told the BBC in late 2020. 

By June 2021, over 20 million AstraZeneca shots had been administered in the UK. The vaccine rollout suffered a setback in early 2021 after Denmark suspended its use, citing a rise in blood clots in patients who had received the dose. A number of other European countries followed suit, including Norway, Iceland, France, the Netherlands, and Slovenia. The EU refuted claims that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine causes blood clots in March 2021, stating that there was no evidence that the jab was linked to the health concern.

Gilbert's doll is one of six influential women to be celebrated by Mattel, who has made a conscious effort to expand the diversity of its Barbies in recent years. Having already launched dolls in a variety of skin tones, shapes, and sizes, the US company is now focusing on highlighting a wider scope of careers—especially those with a lower representation of women. 

As well as paying tribute to Professor Gilbert, it has acknowledged the work of a number of other female medics in the pandemic—including Dr. Kirby Whitby, the cofounder of the eco-friendly company Gowns for Doctors, and Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto who has campaigned against systematic racism in healthcare.

Emma Dooney
Emma Dooney

Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.