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Interview with Fi Poole on ABC Coffs Coast on regional vaccines and vaccine incentives

Read the transcript of Minister Gillespie’s ABC Coffs Coast interview with with Fi Poole on regional vaccines and vaccine incentives.

The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP
Former Minister for Regional Health

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Dr David Gillespie, Federal Member for Lyne, he's also the Minister for Regional Health, joins us this morning. Dr Gillespie, good morning.


Good morning, Fi. How are you?


Good, thanks for being here. Now, figures out for the Mid North Coast, 17.5 per cent of people aged over the age of 15 fully vaccinated, 45.5 per cent with the first dose. Now considering we have an aged population, we also have a high proportion of indigenous people here, I mean, do you think that that really could be better?


Look, whatever figures you look at, regional Australia, across the country, are predominantly the more advanced in percentages of being vaccinated either the first or second time.

You mentioned at the start in the Mid North Coast we're up to 45.5 per cent. We have one of the oldest demographics in the country, going up the North Coast of New South Wales, and as you understand, our rollout around the country, at least the Commonwealth rollout, has been focused on the people who are most at risk, and that is people in aged care facilities, the elderly, and it has been a staged rollout. So that's why you see different figures in our area where we've got more elderly.

It's also first or second doses, because, as you know, there's a three-month interval for the AstraZeneca dose, whereas it's only a three week for the Pfizer.

And the, the state-run system has been separate to the GP, and the pharmacies, and the Commonwealth vaccination clinics, and the Community Controlled Health Organisations.

Depending on which figures you look at, but all in all across the country, the regional areas are doing better in most instances - not universally - in most instances better than the big cities.


And on the supply, Pfizer are going to Sydney to vaccinate, Year 12 students. What sort of delay do you expect that to have on the 45.5 per cent of people on the mid-north coast who have had their first shot?


Well look, I don't think it'll alter the Commonwealth rollout programme through general practices and pharmacies.

In fact, the rollout through pharmacies has been brought forward, because we know they've got a system in place and it's going to be convenient for people to get. But that's what Lieutenant General Frewen was talking about, convenience is a big driver.

I mean, the big vaccination clinics can cover large numbers when, when they are running with supply that is controlled within each state. But the Commonwealth rollout will exponentially increase, as it has been.


Now we know that there is some vaccine hesitancy in particular communities, for example, in the Aboriginal Community, also where English is a second language.

Couldn't a $300 cash payment really help there. You know, more so than what Scott Morrison's suggesting of frequent flyer points or something of that nature? A $300 cash payment, wouldn't that really see some people cross the line and get that vaccine?


No. Look, I don't think it does. People who are coming out in their droves now to get vaccinated because they saw the chance of getting COVID was so far off, we've done such a great job.

Paradoxically, our amazing success compared to the rest of the world put people in a position of complacency. But now that we've seen these outbreaks in Sydney and in Victoria, people are putting, putting themselves up, getting their shoulder exposed and are asking for a vaccine.

So I think, as it's been described by yourself, and yesterday in Parliament by me, it is a thought bubble.

There's 12.6 million people who've already had one or two doses. It is ramping up. Does that mean you're going to get a vaccination payment from measles and mumps, or if you get a tetanus booster? Like, you've got to think these things through, Fi, and it is not logical.

And I made the analogy, it's a shoot-from-the-hip idea that hasn't been thought through. It has the possibility to become like the pink batts of the vaccination program.


But the sooner we get the country vaccinated, the sooner we are out of lockdown. And considering lockdown is costing so much money, wouldn't it be worth spending some- wouldn't it be worth spending six billion to avoid having to spend 12 on lockdown?


Look, I think spending six billion dollars on the vaccines is probably better than on, you know, giving people who are going to do something already, and have done something already, a cash bonus.

You mentioned vaccine hesitancy. I think it would be paradoxical.

People get very suspicious if they're being almost bribed with cash to come forward, yet we have vaccines that have been cleared by TGA and ATAGI. We know around the world the Delta variant is very infectious, it is infecting younger people.

The Burnet Institute modelling shows that getting it amongst those that are more likely to transmit it is a very cost effective way of reducing transmission.

So I understand every jurisdiction has got different pressures around the country, but overall, we want, at a Commonwealth level, we want it to go everywhere.

We've had it out through remote Australia through the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

We've got over the whole country, this is not in New South Wales, we've got 34 Aboriginal Community Controlled health sites with AstraZeneca alone. And then there's another 74 with AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

And we've got, in regional Australia when all the pharmacies are rolled out, there'll be 1,260.

At the moment, around regional Australia, we've got over a 1,000 general practices.

You can see on various websites where the general practices are in everyone's region, whether you're in Port Macquarie or up in Coffs Harbour, and they are doing amazing numbers.

In fact, the biggest roll out figures are through the general practices. They may not be doing the big numbers individually, but as a whole, the whole network of general practices has delivered more than all the mega centres that the state jurisdictions have been running out.


Very interesting.

Dr David Gillespie joins us this morning. He is the Federal Member for Lyne, but also the Federal Minister for Regional Health. You mentioned Aboriginal communities there are obviously mostly living in remote locations across the country, living regionally as well, you know, out of the, the big cities. And Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, they recently announced that- well, we learned this on Monday, they advised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 12 to 15, and those who live in remote communities and those with underlying medical conditions should be prioritised to receive the jab. Do you agree that children should be getting vaccinated?


Well look, the body that I've followed in my professional career was the Therapeutic Good Administration, and the ATAGI group advised me and many doctors who practice around Australia on what is the best process for vaccinating.

They make a risk assessment. The risk of getting a disease which can be very serious if you've got a chronic illness, or you're immuno-suppressed, or you've had a transplant and you're on immune suppressing drugs, or people in these areas where they have a lot of other poor health markers, you know, marked obesity, smoking, et cetera.

So, it's aimed at clearing the way, so that it can be rolled out to any children in this age group that need it. And they think that the risk of, you know, COVID is such that it would go through these communities like it has around the world - very rapidly, and very easily.

So prevention is always better than a cure.


Do you think we'll see children younger than 12 get vaccinated.


I don't think so. I don't think so. Look the nature of the illness is that the receptors that the COVID-19 virus gets into the body aren't as populated amongst the cells in young people as they are in old.

And that has something to do with why it isn't transmitted as easily amongst young kids. But it can happen, particularly with this Delta variant.

So that's why we rely on these experts at the TGA, or the ATAGI group - they're all experts in the area of vaccination.

And look, I spent my whole medical career following the advice of experts. And you can have your own analysis, but generally, over the whole, the expert advice is the way to go.


And so what happens now when ATAGI advises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 12 to 15 should get the jab? What happens now?


The advice isn't for all children 12 to 15. It's those that are 12 to 15 who are at higher risk of severe illness, i.e., they have got medical, serious medical conditions, including severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, cardiac and, and other congenital heart anomalies.

And so it's not every child, it's just those children who really need it. Because we know if they get it, they will get very sick because they've got these major underlying medical conditions.


And also those children living in remote communities.


Those children with severe medical conditions. I've gone through the ATAGI advice and they're very specific, so it's not a widespread roll out between 12 and 15.

It's just those children with severe medical, specified medical conditions that increase their risk if they were to catch COVID.


Got it. That's different to the information I have.




So thank you for clarifying that. Dr David Gillespie, we'll leave it there. Thanks for joining me.


Okay, thanks, Fi. Anytime.


Thank you. He is the Federal Member for Lyne, your local member, potentially. And he's also the Federal Minister for Regional Health.

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