Matt Hancock admits film Contagion inspired UK’s coronavirus vaccine strategy

Matt Hancock has told how the film Contagion which tells the story of a global pandemic part-inspired the UK's coronavirus vaccine strategy.

The Health Minister said the movie, which stars Matt Damon, helped demonstrate to him the importance of securing enough coronavirus vaccines once they had been approved.

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "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.

"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.

"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."

Sources have claimed that at the start of the pandemic, the Health Secretary constantly reminded advisers he thought the 2011 movie was a prime example of how the pandemic would play out.

Hancock urged his team to take on board the complexities of an international race for limited vaccine supply – in a bid make sure the UK was leading vaccine efforts when one became available.

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A former Department of Health and Social Care adviser told Sky News: "He was constantly referring to the end of the film.

"He was always really aware from the very start, first that the vaccine was really important, second that when a vaccine was developed we would see an almighty global scramble for this thing."

It is believed Hancock was taken aback by a scene in which supply of the vaccines is distributed based on a lottery of birthdates.

A source told The Guardian: "To be clear, he didn’t think there was going to be this competition just because he’d seen Contagion.

"The UK vaccine effort was in no way built on the epidemiological model of watching a film – it was an illustrative example. He would say, 'We've all seen Contagion, right?' It was helpful."

They said a lot of the focus was the "need to inject a dose of reality and realpolitik into it".

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