Matt Hancock says he was inspired to make vaccine decisions after watching movie 'Contagion'

Watch: How the movie Contagion inspired Hancock's vaccine plans

Matt Hancock has revealed how the 2011 film Contagion helped to inspire the UK’s coronavirus vaccine strategy.

The health secretary admitted that while it wasn’t his only source of information, the Matt Damon blockbuster showed him how important it would be to secure sufficient vaccines after they won approval.

He was quizzed on Wednesday morning by LBC’s Nick Ferrari, who asked if the film had informed the decision to increase orders of the Oxford vaccine from 30 million to 100 million.

“I knew when the vaccine came good... that the demand for it would be huge and that we would need to be ready to vaccinate every adult in the country and I wasn’t going to settle for less,” Hancock said, adding that the film taught him there could be “a huge row about order of priority” once vaccines become available.

Matt Hancock has refused to deny that the coronavirus strategy informed his vaccine strategy. (Getty/Warner Bros)
Matt Hancock has refused to deny that the film Contagion informed his vaccine strategy. (Getty/Warner Bros)

He later 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.”

Contagion follows a team of medical experts as they try to stop a virus during a pandemic.

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA - NOVEMBER 04: Actor Matt Damon arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's 'Ford v Ferrari' held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on November 4, 2019 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)
Matt Damon's 2011 film Contagion helped inspire the health secretary's thoughts on vaccines. (Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)

After coronavirus spread around the world and sent countries into lockdowns, the film shot up the iTunes charts and made it into the top 10 on Netflix.

Ofcom received 160 complaints after ITV2 broadcast the movie in November, with some social media users criticising the decision as “insensitive”.

International vaccine issues have come to the fore in Europe as some politicians on the continent, including French president Emmanuel Macron, have questioned the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy for over-65s as the EU vaccine supply row rumbles on.

Asked why some European countries would not approve the vaccine for people in that age group, Hancock told Times Radio that some are waiting for more data.

Ralph Evans, 88, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil as the NHS ramps up its vaccination programme with 530,000 doses of the newly approved jab available for rollout across the UK.
European countries may be missing out by not giving the Oxford vaccine to over-65s, Matt Hancock said. (PA)

“I think we’ve been a bit bolder in this country, simply because we’ve been involved in developing the vaccine, we’ve seen the evidence come through,” he said.

“And we’ve done this with other vaccines in the past – we’ve changed the schedules that are used in order to maximise the impact, very successfully.

“So, I think they’re just waiting to see, and soon enough they’ll get the evidence and then they’ll start using the vaccine.

“But they will have missed out in a sense because during this period they won’t have been using the vaccine and preventing deaths and hospitalisations.”

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