Vaccinations taking priority over elimination of the virus, that's the captain's call by New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, which is setting the state on a collision course with the rest of the nation.
We're joined now by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
So if New South Wales starts to open up at this 50 per cent vaccination rates, I mean, what are we going to see? Are we going to see other states snap shut their borders?
Well, at the moment, what we are seeing is New South Wales is doing everything it possibly can to contain and then to suppress the virus. At the same time, we’re vaccinating on a grand scale, over 1.3 million vaccinations in the last week, or almost the entire population of Adelaide vaccinated in one week. So those two things are occurring at the same time.
The difficult measures that people in New South Wales are living through right now, and the vaccination program accelerating at a faster rate than Australia has ever seen with vaccination on all the advice that I've had.
So they're parallel processes and difficult and challenging. But they're saving lives on a really fundamental level.
Given the state's propensity to shut down their borders, and we know how this variant goes, it goes quickly so they want to shut things down. Even if we’re at 70 or 80 per cent, an epidemiologist on our show last hour said that won't stop these lockdowns, they will try and stop these things before it gets into their states.
Well what we do know is that the Doherty modelling has indicated that if we have 70 per cent full vaccination in Australia, then the need for lockdowns is less, but it's not an absolute end to them. That’s an honest answer.
We’ve set it out in the last week, published that modelling. It is important, I think, to understand around the world, we're seeing 500,000-plus cases a day, over 800,000 in one-day last week. In the United States, I believe, over 700,000 cases in a week. So this situation, around the world, it's a pandemic, well into its second year.
In Australia, although there are great challenge that are impacting families, our circumstances are almost beyond imagination to the rest of the world that looks to Australia and says, wow, we've had thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, but Australia has saved tens of thousands of lives.
So challenging, but our circumstances are just vastly, vastly better than so many countries around the world.
And it was good to hear yesterday that Moderna has now been approved here. How important is that going to be in the rollout? What does that change?
Yes. So it's another really important vaccine. Moderna’s been approved by the TGA or our Therapeutic Goods Administration, the medical regulator.
Ten million vaccines are contracted, scheduled, expected for this year. The first million are due in the second half of September, and then 3 million a month October, November, December.
What does it all mean? It means another highly safe, highly effective vaccine that will help ensure that every Australian who seeks to be vaccinated this year can be vaccinated this year. But we’re seeing those numbers, as I say, accelerate with over 200,000 a day on weekdays, in the last week, the equivalent of the population of Adelaide or almost the equivalent.
And so Australians are really stepping forward. But please keep doing that. I know it's tough. I know it's challenging. But please keep coming forward to be vaccinated.
Your argument is that Australians will see greater freedoms when they're vaccinated. There are plenty of people who are already vaccinated and they're not seeing those freedoms.
When will see those freedoms- when can you guarantee those freedoms in the next couple of months, given the propensity of some states to lock down, regardless?
Sure. So the agreement of all the states and territories and the Commonwealth through National Cabinet, is that we move to the next stage when there's 70 per cent full vaccination rates, and the next stage again when there's 80 per cent full vaccination rates.
Now those are challenging targets, but both the evidence of people being vaccinated and the evidence of intention, we're seeing much higher rates of intention - I think because everybody knows somebody who’s been vaccinated.
13.7 million vaccinations, it's almost impossible for anybody not to know somebody who’s been vaccinated. That creates confidence, and we are seeing the fact that there's no person in the current outbreak in NSW, on the best advice that I have, who's on ventilation or has passed who's been double vaccinated.
And that just shows that these vaccines save lives. So those things are coming together to show the importance, but also to provide the confidence in the sense that, wow, the country’s doing this. The country is really doing this.
Alright. Let's see what Christmas looks like.
Oh mate, for New South Wales, bleak. Thank you for your time. Really appreciate it.
Thank you, Minister.