How the movie Contagion inspired UK’s vaccine plans

The UK health secretary revealed how the Hollywood film inspired the vaccination drive.

How the movie Contagion inspired UK’s vaccine plans Getty Images

The UK Government’s drive to order millions of coronavirus vaccine doses was partly inspired by a Hollywood movie, the health secretary has revealed.

The 2011 film Contagion charts the spread of a disease and scientists’ struggles to cope with the pandemic, culminating in a vaccine allocated according to a lottery system.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock stressed that the Steven Soderbergh movie was “not my primary source of my advice on this” but it did illustrate the importance of setting out the order in which people would get a vaccine.

“I knew that when the vaccine came good, and I always had faith that it would, the demand for it would be huge and we would need to be ready to vaccinate every adult in the country, and I wasn’t going to settle for less,” he said.

He told LBC: “I wasn’t going to settle for a contract that allows the Oxford vaccine to be delivered to others around the world before us.”

Hancock said the film – featuring stars including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Ehle and Jude Law – showed “the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not, in fact, before it’s rolled out – when actually the scientists and the manufacturers are working together at pace – it’s afterwards, when there is a huge row about the order of priority”.

“I insisted that we ordered enough for everybody to have every adult have their two doses, but also we asked for that clinical advice on the prioritisation very early and set it out in public.”

That meant there was no “big row about the order of priority” and “we asked the clinicians and we do it on the basis of how we save most lives most quickly”.

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