Trying to get a Florida vaccine is like stealing a monkey in a helicopter
Have you watched Outbreak lately? Let’s revisit and find hope.
Just a girl, standing in front of a vaccine, asking it to love her.
Just a girl, standing in front of a vaccine, asking it to love her. [ PETER SOREL | BPI/Warner Brothers ]
Published Mar. 23, 2021|Updated Mar. 23, 2021

The following contains spoilers for the 1995 movie Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Cuba Gooding Jr. and other luminaries. If this has been on your watch list for 26 years, I don’t know what to tell you.

Maybe you included it in a binge of pandemic movies, a solid genre. Contagion is the gold standard, but in that one, the government is efficient and communicative, so it doesn’t feel real. Outbreak is the most absurd, and therefore, the best. It starts out okay, then devolves into actual bananas.

To recap:

The military decides to bomb a town to contain a deadly virus. There’s a subplot about a biological weapon, but, yawn. Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. are kind of in the Army, but not all the way? They need to find a vaccine fast, so they steal a helicopter.

They land on a container ship that once carried a sick monkey and manage to find a photo of the animal. They fly to a news station and jump in front of the cameras — at gunpoint! — like, HAVE YOU SEEN THIS SPECIFIC MONKEY?

And that works!! A lady is all, “Hey, my kid plays with that monkey.” Parents, make sure your progeny aren’t out back playing with diseased wildlife. Anyway, the monkey comes into the yard at the right moment for Gooding to tranq the sucker.

Back in the chopper, they are pursued by Bad Guys. There’s some rocket stuff, and they survive to mix monkey antibodies with a serum, like Kool-Aid and sugar. Kevin Spacey dies, but that’s not important. They rescue Rene Russo with the monkey juice, which apparently does not need clinical trials.

Morgan Freeman decides not to bomb the village thanks to the new capuchin cocktail. The whole town is cured. This all happens in a matter of hours!

Not only have I saved you $3.99 on Amazon Prime, I will now make a point. It feels like the end of Outbreak in Florida right now. Federal government is saying one thing, state government is saying another. Meanwhile, local governments are just doing their own thing, reporting back to the state with, “Oh, didn’t my text go through? Sry, phone acting weird.”

The more vaccinated, the better. So, like Dustin Hoffman, eager young people have ignored Morgan Freeman’s orders and started hunting for leftover doses, standing in lines for hours, creating information networks online and searching for monkeys in suburban backyards.

It’s incredibly frustrating to not have a vaccine yet. Any blush of waste is a tragedy. And it’s maddening that we haven’t loaded up every Chick-fil-A drive-thru in America with medical workers. This is a feasible solution; I have run the numbers.

Related: A guide to finding a coronavirus vaccine in Tampa Bay

But it can be soothing to pause, to drink in the sheer audacity of the timeline. We’re getting inoculated in droves against something we’d never even heard of in 2019. Science is amazing. Scientists are amazing. I can’t even wrap my head around convincing cells to produce a protein that mimics the virus, the way Dustin Hoffman convinced those two bomber pilots to ignore direct orders from the president.

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The Plague of Justinian lasted three centuries. Somehow, LOST went on for six seasons. We could be in for so much more suffering. Maybe it’s not all happening in a few staggering hours, like the plot of Outbreak. But relatively speaking, it’s not that far off.

Next, we will explore 12 Monkeys, which involves time travel. We still have much to learn.

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