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Matt Hancock Says 'Contagion' Film Helped Guide UK Coronavirus Vaccine Response

3 min read

Matt Hancock has revealed that a Hollywood film about a global pandemic helped him prepare for the vaccine roll out.

The Health Secretary has confirmed reports that he was prepared for the global demand for the coronavirus vaccine after watching the 2011 film which shows the world in the grip of a major pandemic.

The film, starring Matt Damon, has been praised for its scientific accuracy in depicting the spread of a global virus, and the international rows which developed as countries raced to secure doses of a vaccine.

Created with scientific advice from leading pandemic experts at the World Health Organisation, the movie focuses on an infection which crossed from animals to humans and deals with the rise of anti-vaxx movements.

Speaking to LBC News, Mr Hancock said while the movie was not his "primary source of advice", he confirmed it had helped prepare him for the "moment of highest stress" after the vaccine was created.

"I wouldn't say that film was my primary source of advice on this, but what I can tell you is that I knew when the vaccine came good, and I always had faith that it would, that the demand 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.

"In the same way I wasn't going to settle for a contract that allowed the Oxford vaccine to be delivered to others around the world before us. I was insisting we could keep all of the British public safe as my primary responsbility as the Health Secretary."

He added: "In the film it shows that the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not in fact before it is rolled out when it is actually the scientists and the manufacturers working together at pace, it is afterwards when there is a huge row about the order of priority.

"I insisted we order enough for every adult to have their two doses, 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 about the order of priority, but instead we asked the clinicians and we do it on the basis of how we save the most lives most quickly."It comes after a major spat between the EU and UK officials over the roll out of the AstraZeneca jab, with the bloc threatening to implement tough export restrictions on the vaccine.

In further comments to ITV's Good Morning Britain, Mr Hancock said the film gave him "insight" into how the international community could respond.

"I did watch the film - it is actually based on the advice of very serious epidemiologists," he said.

"So, one of the things I did early was insist that 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 vaccine."

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