Should we thank Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon for 10 million vaccinations within a month?

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I could go on for hours about the government’s lamentable response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the one the government has got right, in my view, is the speed and volume of vaccination.

Some of my favourite heroes are Edward Jenner, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain. – Not the sort of names you hear bandied about with your normal Shakespeare, Churchill, Nelson hero names. But, we owe much of our longer life expectancy to those scientists. The whole idea of the vaccine itself is a miracle. The fact that the scientists were able to come up with several vaccines for Covid-19 is a super-miracle.

But it is even more of a miracle that the UK government did its ordering very promptly and voluminously – and that the scientific bodies approved the vaccines speedily.

I hear we should thank Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon.

They starred in the 2011 film “Contagion”, which, I understand, has guided Matt Hancock’s vaccination policy.

PoliticsHome reports:

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.

It sounds laughable but I think we should be grateful to the film.

I would state finally that I strongly believe that we must share our good fortune with less fortunate countries.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is currently taking a break from his role as one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Much credit belongs to Kate Bingham and her team who rapidly evaluated the various vaccines in development and backed winners before it was known they would work…

    ‘Coronavirus: UK’s nimble vaccine task force has left rivals trailing in its wake’:

    When Boris Johnson called Kate Bingham last April and asked her to lead Britain’s vaccine task force the brief was simple: “Stop people from dying.”

    After thinking it over for 24 hours, Ms Bingham took the (unpaid) job and set about it at speed. A biochemist turned venture capitalist, she assembled a small team of private sector experts who knew the science, industry and logistics of making it all work.

    Within a fortnight they had drawn up a shortlist of 23 vaccines from four different vaccine technologies. The key criterion, given the priority of saving lives, was not to find the perfect vaccine but the one (or ones) that would reduce the severity of infection and be ready for market within a year.

    ‘’We had to go it alone’: how the UK got ahead in the Covid vaccine race’:

    By the time a special UK vaccine taskforce was created in April, the seeds of a successful strategy had been sown.

    Run from May by the venture capitalist Kate Bingham, a no-nonsense operator, it directed government money up and down the vaccine supply chain, and helped ensure that two other vaccine candidates were manufactured in the UK – an interventionist policy not seen since before the days of Margaret Thatcher.

  • Should we thank Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson? Serious question.

    Lib Dems were amongst those highlighting problems and placing the blame at the government’s door. Does it look credible not offer praise when things go well? Or am I being naive?

  • @Rob

    I defiantly think we should be thanking Matt Hancock, I actually think he has had one of the most difficult jobs in all this and has come under so much attack from the media and especially from within his own party.

    I don’t tend to hold any Tories in very high regards for their politics.

    I think we might have gotten through this pandemic earlier and with less casualties had Mat Hancock been able to go as far as he would have liked to with measures to control this pandemic but was blocked by members of the party and cabinet.

    And we can be in no doubt that he has been very effective in his role for getting vaccines procured and rolled out at speed.

    As for Boris, well, im really not so sure on that one, he is so hard to read and flip flops all over the place. At the start of the pandemic he was reluctant to act, in the middle he was too keen to open back up.
    A couple of weeks ago, he seemed to have a change in his persona at the news conferences and appeared as though he was going to get much tougher on driving down this virus with tighter border controls and kept emphasising how lockdown would be eased extremely slowly and cautiously, and now over the last week, he seems to be flip flopping again and talking more keenly about ending restrictions and opening up. I just cant keep up, he is not consistent.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Boris flips flops are more to do with his own backbenchers and how loud the voices threaten to send letters to 1922 committee.
    They were quiet over xmas when Numbers started to rocket again, but I have no doubt that now numbers are starting to come down again albeit from a higher base, the threats have started to resume and thats why we start hearing a different tone from Boris

  • Barry Lofty 4th Feb '21 - 9:44am

    Leaving aside my thoughts on the government my wife and I had our first vaccinations recently and have nothing but praise for the professional organisation, expertise and friendliness of everyone concerned from the moment we arrived in the car park until the moment we left the vaccination centre. That is what will stay in our grateful memories!

  • John Marriott 4th Feb '21 - 10:05am

    No, Paul, but I reckon that, unfortunately, increasing numbers of voters are thanking the Conservative Party and Mr Johnson in particular, whether you and I like it or not. What now the ‘vaccine bounce’?

  • Barry Lofty 4th Feb '21 - 10:12am

    Oh dear politics again, I wonder if the the British people will forget the hundred thousand plus deaths that our country has suffered, I hope not!!

  • We should remember that it is the NHS working with local Councils who are delivering the vaccine so brilliantly. Indeed the work done by them has been exemplary throughout the pandemic, both in hospitals and in local communities.

    The things that have gone badly wrong – supply of PPE, track and trace, late lockdowns, discharges to care homes, not to mention all those wasted contracts awarded without due diligence – have all been ‘managed’ by Government.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Feb '21 - 10:36am

    John Marriott

    My feeling is that outside of internet echo chambers the public are at least willing to say of the pandemic, ‘glad it was you not me in office.’

    Undoubtedly mistakes were made. Some of what happened was symptom as much as cause. We won’t know for sure the full picture for years.

    A botched vaccination program would have been fatal politically. But so far at least that’s not happened. And I’m as surprised as anyone.

    I don’t know. I suspect from a liberal perspective national self sufficiency is about to be strongly preferred in politics. That will be uneasy for some.

    My reading is that voters aren’t thanking anyone but it’s not as straightforward as the internet would have us believe.

  • Adrian Collett 4th Feb '21 - 10:43am

    If anyone felt the guilt that Boris and Matt should feel about the incredibly incompetent, almost wilfully incompetent, handling of the pandemic, the very least they should do is get the vaccination right. There are still many things that can go wrong, so I am withholding any congratulations for them until we’re really out of this.

    My admiration goes to the NHS workers and all the essential workers who have kept society going and are getting on with the vaccination. They have been put at risk unnecessarily by the Government, so in my view it is premature to thank the Tories.

  • Richard Cripps 4th Feb '21 - 10:52am

    It seems to me (as a recipient) that the Vaccine production and delivery programme has brought together all the best elements of the state (NHS staff and the Army), research programmes (private and public funded), business experience (the vaccine task force) and volunteer good will. Can we not celebrate this combination of public and private enterprise, rather than discussing which is best?

  • John Marriott 4th Feb '21 - 12:37pm

    @Barry Lofty
    This is LDV. It’s politics that we do. A niche form of politics, admittedly, where complaining is part of its molecular structure; but politics nevertheless. It’s hardwired into our DNA.

    @Puff’s friend
    My cynical take is that, if they emerge from lockdown eventually, many voters will only remember who was in charge (if ‘in charge’ are the right words) when ‘freedom’ in whatever form returned. What I really hope people will do is to ask themselves WHY the virus was allowed to cross over into humankind in the first place. If we don’t change our collective behaviour, in a few years time we might be having to face an annual veritable chemistry lab of vaccines and their relevant boosters, possibly for ever!

  • Barry Lofty 4th Feb '21 - 12:58pm

    John Marriott @ I was not making making a criticism of you but referring to myself
    for returning to politics on this subject.

  • john oundle 4th Feb '21 - 4:09pm

    Mary Reid

    Without the government taking the risk to go it alone (outside the EMA) there would be little or no vaccine for the NHS to put into arms,not to mention the massive investment made in the vaccine project by the government,pro rata far more than the EU.

    ON PPE maybe you can tell us which countries didn’t struggle, my wife’s French family (niece is a nurse) were contacting us in March last year asking if we could send masks.The government got involved with procurement here, because the NHS procurement couldn’t cope when global demand exceeds supply by 1000%.

    Again we were told that not getting involved with the EU ventilator project was a massive mistake.My wife’s niece’s hospital received their EU ventilators in August, months after the critical period.

    Sure I would argue that lock downs have been too late,track & trace was not good etc.
    But I don’t think that looking at this through a purely party political perspective is the right approach, as with any issue there needs to be a balance..

  • Barry Lofty 4th Feb '21 - 4:36pm

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could put aside political differences in the midst of this worldwide crisis we are facing and work together to find a solution for all mankind, but politicians, particularly one’s like Boris
    Johnson, like to take all the praise but try to bury their mistakes in propaganda and diversionary tactics. No wonder opponents are continually looking for flaws, Winston Churchill he ain’t.

  • John Marriott 4th Feb '21 - 4:40pm

    @Barry Lofty
    No need to apologise, Barry. I know from your previous posts that you are a serious and respectful guy. If anything, it was yours truly, who was being sarcastic and possibly condescending. As you have already had your first shot of the vaccine, I assume that you are, like me, a somewhat senior and, in my case, rather jaundiced campaigner.

  • Barry Lofty 4th Feb '21 - 4:51pm

    John Marriott @ Yes John I am sadly in that age group and probably rather grumpy at, like you, not being able to see my lovely children and grandchildren, I live in hope, all the best.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Feb '21 - 5:26pm

    Barry Lofty/John Marriott

    The world would be a much better place if we all stepped away from the internet.

    Can’t we all just get along – as the wise man said.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Feb '21 - 5:29pm

    John Oundle

    The countries that struggled least were those with national self sufficiency in production. Deglobalisation is coming.

  • @John Marriott – ” If we don’t change our collective behaviour, in a few years time we might be having to face an annual veritable chemistry lab of vaccines and their relevant boosters, possibly for ever!”

    Well, I would replace ‘might’ with ‘will’:
    2002~2004 SARS-CoV
    2009 Influenza A(H1N1)
    2014~2016 Ebola
    2020~2021 SARS-CoV-2 aka CoViD19

    Interestingly, thinking about the time compression of history, if you were living in biblical times and were able to look forward, perhaps you would describe our time as a period of disease.

  • john oundle 5th Feb '21 - 12:50am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Spot on.China, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey & Mexico absolutely no shortages of PPE.

    Agree, massive fail for globalisation but on the other hand for some PPE products like masks & respirators, should result in some new high tech manufacturing in the UK & decent jobs to go with it. For other PPE products like gowns the need is for local production of single use fabric & then clothing manufacturers can put the gowns together.

  • @John oundle – “single use fabric”
    Trouble is it has been the decision to rely on single-use aka disposable PPE which has fundamentally caused the shortages. We actually need to get better at developing reusable PPE (and hospital environments that are easier to deep clean). Remember, we have been lucky in that we’ve not had to put patients into isolation tents etc. as was the case with ebola and thus compound the supply (and associated waste) problems.

    However, I agree there has been an opportunity for more locally based technology innovation and production – like we saw with the development of the Mercedes CRAP breathing aid – the designs for which have been made freely available at no cost.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Feb '21 - 6:05pm


    I’m quite sure Mercedes did not give their product that name!

  • john oundle 5th Feb '21 - 6:52pm


    Problem with reusable PPE is that the barrier properties reduce after each use, even the more recent high tech versions, hence, not generally used in hospitals in developed markets.
    In addition to barrier issues, reusables are not as cost effectives single use.

    In terms of the environment, single use products account for approx.3% of hospital waste. Packaging waste is the largest by far, followed by food waste, maybe one of the celebrity chefs could help out?

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