In a major shake-up for the vaccine rollout, Pfizer will become the preferred vaccine for 50 to 59-year-olds, following the death of a 52-year-old woman who'd been given the AstraZeneca jab.
Let's bring in Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in Canberra. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
Pleasure. Good morning.
This was a big call.
Look, it was a difficult decision, but it was the right decision. We had very clear medical advice from the people who've helped keep us safe.
You know, in a world of 2 million lives lost, agonisingly, this year, we've had no lives lost to COVID for people who have caught it in Australia and we've done that by following the medical advice.
This advice says for those aged 50 to 59, instead of AstraZeneca, Pfizer becomes the preferred vaccine, and so we've opened that up immediately, and we will build to 1300 GP clinics by the end of July that are supplying Pfizer and then over the coming months, we'll increase that again, in particular in October, for the last three months and possibly September, if we can have supplies brought forward.
In addition, 136 Commonwealth vaccination clinics, as well as those state clinics as they open up. So, we're providing an alternative, and working on that immediately. And I do thank Australians for coming forward.
We've had over 6.2 million vaccinations so far, and a quarter of the adult population have been vaccinated. So that's important protection to date.
Supply of Pfizer has been an issue. Do you have enough now?
Yes, so over the course of the year, we'll have 40 million units and I confirmed that again yesterday with the Country Head of Pfizer. 2.8 million units coming in during the course of July. So, we'll be going from an average of 300,000 a week to over 600,000 a week.
It still means that people in these age groups from 40 to 59, we'd gently ask for their patience, but Australians have been magnificent in coming forward, but accepting that we're working on a rollout which runs throughout the course of 2021.
But the first 4 million took longer than we expected, because of international supply questions. The last 2 million have been faster than we expected because we've had both supply and we've had Australians coming forward in record numbers.
And so, I want to send a very clear message that if you have had your first dose of AstraZeneca, all the medical advice is to please come forward and have your second dose.
It's exactly what I did. It's what Brendan Murphy did, Julia Gillard, who joined us for the initial vaccination. She's part of that. That’s- that medical advice is clear. It will help protect you and it will help protect everybody else.
The problem is, Greg, as you would know only too well, there are reports thousands of people over the age of 50 are cancelling their second AstraZeneca shots. I mean, it's hard to imagine you doing more to dent confidence in relation to AstraZeneca.
Well, very clear medical advice - and this is a vaccine which has been used in over half a billion occasions around the world. We've had 4 million AstraZeneca vaccinations in Australia.
But the advice is for those 50 to 59, that we move from AstraZeneca to Pfizer, but the same people who are advising that and who have put in place one of the most cautious age ranges in the world, noting that the UK says AstraZeneca is appropriate for 40 and over, South Korea says 30 and over, Germany says 18 and over.
So, for us to have 60 and over is a very cautious position, but that same medical advisory group, which I think is arguably, you know, the equal of any in the world, says second doses are absolutely critical and that they are fundamentally safe.
There's a very different incidence of the conditions associated. Please come forward and have your second dose and that's the medical experts that have put in place these cautious rules and guidelines.
The issue you’ve got, you’ve got a lot of people now in their 50s this morning waking up going, well, hang on, I came out, I did the right thing, and now I'm being told to have this AstraZeneca second jab but people under 60 shouldn't have it.
That’s the issue you’re going to be dealing with in the next couple of days.
Exactly right and change doesn't breed confidence. You know you’ve got that to battle.
I do understand that. Right through the pandemic, one of the things is we've moved early, and we've followed that medical advice.
Whether that was closing the borders with China, which at the time was very controversial, and many people challenged it and wondered whether it was an overreaction or closing the international borders, or putting in place the India pause, which has seen the rate of positive cases drop from 1 in 8 or 13 per cent to approximately half a per cent of arrivals - we've followed that medical advice.
We're doing that now, but the very clear evidence-based medical advice which the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation put out yesterday, which the Chief Medical Officer, and Paul Kelly, and Brendan Murphy, also emphasised is the second doses around the world have an incredibly low rate of incidents associated with them.
It's in your interests, it's in the national interest, to please come forward, and I can say this, having done it, my 89-year-old mother-in-law, who lives with us at home, she's due to have her second dose of AstraZeneca today, and she's heading down to the Rosebud Commonwealth vaccination clinic to have her second dose.
Alright, Greg. Appreciate your time today. Another busy day for you. Thanks for being us with.
Take care, everybody.