Sarah Gilbert, scientist behind the Oxford jab, gets a Barbie lookalike
- Professor Sarah Gilbert is credited with creating the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
- Barbie-maker Mattel has created a Barbie in her image to honour her
- The toy is meant to encourage girls to pursue the sciences
Vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, the scientist behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine now has a unique honour — a Barbie in her image. Barbie maker Mattel has created dolls for Gilbert and other scientists to honour them and to encourage young girls to take up the sciences.
Gilbert, who was recognised with damehood recently, said that she initially found the creation “very strange” but hoped it would inspire children. “My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist,” the BBC quoted her as saying.
Gilbert’s Barbie is one of six designed to honour women working in science, technology, engineering and math (Stem). The others include an Australian medic who helped create a reusable gown for health workers and a Brazilian researcher working on biomedicine.
Over the years, toy maker Mattel had come under criticism for creating an unrealistic image of womanhood through the dolls which became a global trend. This is Mattel’s way of responding to the criticism and redefining the way in which the brand is perceived.
In 2016, Mattel released three new types of Barbie in the US — curvy, petite and tall. In 2017, Mattel introduced the first hijab-wearing Barbie to honour the first woman from the US to wear the Islamic headscarf while competing at the Olympics. In 2019, civil rights leader Rosa Parks was made into a Barbie doll.
Mattel now designs toys around careers such as firefighter, astronaut and doctor in a range of skin tones beyond its original white and blonde doll launched in 1959. The pandemic saw sale of Barbie dolls rise to a six-year high, as parents stocked up on toys for their children.
Sarah Gilbert, who now has a Barbie in her image, began designing the coronavirus vaccine in early 2020 when COVID-19 first emerged in China. The vaccine made by her, the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, is now the most widely used vaccine in the world with doses going to more than 170 countries.