Here’s how the film Contagion inspired Matt Hancock’s Covid response - and how to watch it

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 2:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 2:25 pm
Contagion partly inspired the UKs rapid vaccine rollout (Netflix)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed that the drive to administer millions of coronavirus vaccine doses was partly inspired by a Hollywood movie.

The movie in question is 2011 Steven Soderbergh flick Contagion which charts the spread of a disease and scientists’ struggles to cope with the pandemic, culminating in a vaccine allocated according to a lottery system.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 the film has surged in popularity with viewers intrigued by the parallels between the work of fiction and the reality of the coronavirus pandemic.

And now the film is seeing a resurgence in interest following the revelation that the film was a source of inspiration for the UK’s response effort.

How did Contagion inspire Matt Hancock?

The Health Secretary revealed that his drive to administer millions of coronavirus vaccine doses was partly inspired by Contagion.

Mr Hancock stressed that the Steven Soderbergh movie was “not my primary source of my advice on this” but it did illustrate the importance of setting out the order in which people would get a vaccine.

“I knew that when the vaccine came good, and I always had faith that it would, the demand for it 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.

The Health Secretary told LBC: “I wasn’t going to settle for a contract that allows the Oxford vaccine to be delivered to others around the world before us.”

Mr Hancock said the film – featuring stars including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Ehle and Jude Law – showed “the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not, in fact, before it’s rolled out – when actually the scientists and the manufacturers are working together at pace – it’s afterwards, when there is a huge row about the order of priority”.

“I insisted that we ordered enough for everybody to have every adult have their two doses, but also we asked for that clinical advice on the prioritisation very early and set it out in public.”

That meant there was no “big row about the order of priority” and “we asked the clinicians and we do it on the basis of how we save most lives most quickly”.

What happens in Contagion? 

Contagion is Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 medical thriller about a virus which rapidly spreads around the world.

With an all-star cast featuring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne, the film follows the frantic quest to track the virus’ origins and the attempts to create a vaccine before it’s too late.

By working alongside World Health Organisation representatives and other medical experts, the film created a frighteningly plausible pandemic based on past viruses like SARS and swine flu.

When it was released, Contagion quickly developed a reputation for playing directly to our germaphobia by drawing attention to how easily germs can spread throughout our society.

Viewers reported leaving the film with a newfound terror of touching anything around them and a strong desire to wash their hands.

How can I watch Contagion? 

Contagion is currently available to watch on Netflix UK.

Alternatively you can rent the film on Amazon Prime or Youtube for £3.49.