Matt Hancock tells LBC how film Contagion alerted him to global vaccine scramble

3 February 2021, 08:38 | Updated: 3 February 2021, 13:28

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Matt Hancock has explained to LBC how he learned lessons from the film Contagion when planning how the coronavirus vaccine would be rolled out in the UK.

The Health Secretary said the Hollywood film, starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, inspired him to be quick to order enough doses for the UK public and plan an early priority list.

He told Nick Ferrari that he "wouldn’t say that film is my primary source of advice on this", but added: "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.”

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Contagion, a 2011 thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh, tells the story of public health officials and medical experts scrambling to contain a new deadly virus and introducing a vaccine to halt its spread.

The fictional virus, which kills between 25 and 30% of those who catch it, is caused by an interaction between a bat and a pig.

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

“So not only in this country I insisted that 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 I think for the first time... in August or September so that there was no big row about the order of priory.

"Instead, we ask the clinicians and we do it on the basis of how we save most lives most quickly."

Government data up to January 31 shows 9,790,576 jabs have been given in the UK so far, 9,296,367 of which were first doses and 494,209 were second doses.

The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 388,971.

Based on the latest figures, an average of 407,402 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government's target of 15 million first doses by February 15.

However, the daily rate has been increasing ahead of the deadline in two weeks' time.

Data for January 30 showed 598,389 people were vaccinated in the UK.