Matt Hancock admits Hollywood film Contagion helped shape his vaccine response

Matt Damon movie showed desperate scramble for jabs during pandemic, says health secretary

Adam Forrest
Thursday 04 February 2021 02:26
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Matt Hancock admits Contagion movie shaped vaccine response

Health secretary Matt Hancock has revealed the Hollywood film Contagion partly shaped his strategy on the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme.

The senior cabinet minister said the movie starring Matt Damon – which focuses on the international struggle to contain a deadly virus – helped prepare him for the global scramble to get hold of vaccines.  

Asked by LBC about his own viewing of Contagion, Mr Hancock said the film influenced the government’s approach to placing huge orders with vaccine manufacturers as early as possible.

“In the film, it shows that the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not before its rolled out – when the scientists and manufacturers work together at pace – it’s afterwards when there is a huge row of the order of priority,” he said.

The health secretary also said the movie influenced the government’s decision to set out a clear order of priority for the domestic rollout, in a bid to avoid ongoing squabbles over who should get the jab first.

“I insisted that we ordered enough for every adult to have their two doses,” he said. “But also we asked for that clinical advice on the prioritisation very early, and set it out in public … so that there was no big row over the order of priority.

“I wouldn’t say that that film was my primary source of advice on this,” the minister added.

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Hancock said Covid-19 vaccine supply “slow downs” were behind the daily fluctuations in jab numbers. Asked on the Today programme if the rollout could go faster, Mr Hancock said supply issues were the “behind those variations [in the daily number of jabs]”.

He added: “When a batch has come in we’ve got more to deliver, and then it slows down a bit, and another one comes in and we get that out.”

Mr Hancock also suggested the government could publish vaccine supply figures. “The Scottish government has asked for those [supply] figures to be regularly published, and we’re talking to them about that,” he said. 

“We’ll also need to talk to the companies, because we’d need their agreement to publish more in terms of the supply.

“When we’re talking to GPs and pharmacists who are delivering this on the ground they often say, ‘Can we have more of a forecast of the supply’.”

The health secretary also rejected criticism from France, when asked about reported comments made by French president Emmanuel Macron that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” among people over 65.

“My view is that we should listen to the scientists... and the science on this one was already pretty clear, and then with this publication overnight is absolutely crystal clear that the Oxford vaccine not only works but works well.”  

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