Almost as soon as the world understood that a pandemic was upon it, scientists and researchers at pharmaceutical companies started chasing down a vaccine. HBO and journalist David France (Welcome to Chechnya, How to Survive a Plague) take a close look at that race in documentary How to Survive a Pandemic.
France started following key decision makers in early 2020 and kept up with them through the next 18 months, even as they held conference calls by Zoom in their basements.
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The film includes interviews with Jon Cohen, senior correspondent for Science Magazine; Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Dan Barouch, lead scientist behind the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the former scientific lead of the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center who co-developed Moderna’s mRNA vaccine; Dr. Adrian Hill, who led the research for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization; Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer; Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and head of the global COVAX initiative (in partnership with the World Health Organization); Dr. Glenda Gray, president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council and the face of South Africa’s Covid-19 response; Rev. Paul Abernathy of Pittsburgh, Penn, who tries to address vaccine hesitancy and access to healthcare in his community; and more.
How to Survive a Pandemic is produced by HBO Documentary Films, in association with Impact Partners, Sandbox Films, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Sky. It’s directed by David France; produced by Mira Chang; written by David France and Tyler H. Walk; edited by Adam Evans and Tyler H. Walk; executive produced by Joy Tomchin, Jenny Raskin, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Jim and Susan Swartz, Nina and David Fialkow; Greg Boustead and Jessica Harrop. It’s co-executive produced by Scott and Molly Forstall, Marni E.J. Grossman and Lauren and John Driscoll. For HBO, Sara Rodriguez is senior producer while Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller are executive producers.
The documentary premieres Tuesday, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.