Matt Hancock says ‘Contagion’ inspired him to tackle coronavirus

"I insisted that UK production protects people in the UK in the first instance"

Matt Hancock has revealed that watching Contagion persuaded him to secure enough coronavirus vaccines early on for the UK population.

The health secretary pressed that while the 2011 pandemic film “wasn’t my only source of advice”, it inspired him to ensure that his nation was protected before helping elsewhere should effective vaccines be developed and approved.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today (February 3): “I think the safest thing to say is (the film) wasn’t my only source of advice on this issue but I did watch the film – it is actually based on the advice of very serious epidemiologists.

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“The insight that was so necessary at the start was that the big pressure on vaccines internationally would not be before they were approved – of course, there was a huge amount of work then – but it was after they are approved.”

He added: “So, one of the things I did early (on), was insist that when we had the Oxford vaccine, and we backed it from the start and that was great, I insisted that UK production protects people in the UK in the first instance. And, as the UK Health Secretary, that is my duty.

“At the same time we are making it available at cost to the rest of the world – not enough people give AstraZeneca credit for that, other vaccine companies are making tens of billions of pounds from their vaccines.”

Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, which stars Matt Damon. Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Bryan Cranston, among others, depicted the event impact of a pandemic and the scramble to secure enough vaccine doses worldwide.

The film soared in viewings at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last March. Reports at the time said it was the fifteenth most-rented film on January 29 on iTunes, when it hadn’t even been in the top 100 the year previous.

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Elsewhere, the screenwriter of the 2011 movie said he wasn’t surprised that coronavirus has spread in real life. Scott Z. Burns attributed his thorough research of pandemics conducted before the making of the film as the reason for this.

“The scientists I spoke to, and there were a lot of them, all said that this was a matter of when, not if,” he said last year.

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