National Cabinet has agreed to fast-track vaccines for the over 50s in the hope of speeding up Australia's stalled roll-out.
For more we are joined by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt in Victoria. Good morning to you, Minister.
Given what’s happened, gee, there have been some changes, haven’t they? Have you got control of this now?
Good morning. Look, we do and I think what we see is the fast-tracking of vaccinations for over 50s, for those that haven't caught up from 3 May, some of the states and what are called the Commonwealth GP respiratory clinics, or the Commonwealth large vaccination clinics will be offers over 50s vaccinations and then from the 17 May general practice clinics.
At the same time fast-tracking the ability for the rest of the 1A and 1B groups of people, such as disability workers, aged-care workers who are under 50 to access state Pfizer clinics. All of this is taking it forward. We had medical advice, we have made changes and this is what has kept us safe.
There were 880,000 cases worldwide yesterday. There were none in the community in Australia. Just imagine that, you know. 880,000 cases versus 0.
So, we are in an incredibly strong situation. We are now at over 1.8 million vaccinations but this allows us to fast-track over 50, and under 50s.
Even just listening to you sort of explain that there, it is very confusing for people and I think when the goalposts move, which obviously they have to with supply issues and what happened with AstraZeneca, but even just reading the paper their morning that you have health staff avoiding getting the AstraZeneca jab, that doesn't exactly make those over 50 feel confident getting it, does it?
Well, I am one of those that has had the AstraZeneca jab. I went with Julia Gillard and Brendan Murphy and we did that. We did that because we believe it in and wanted to show the demonstration that’s just part of people being vaccinated.
So, our job together is to provide that confidence. And this is what is going to protect us and save lives. It is about helping each individual but each of us also has the chance to protect every other Australian.
That has been put to me by people within the community and I think it’s a lovely way to conceive of it and I think it is a very accurate way, that every person's vaccination protects them but it helps protect everybody else.
It is painfully slow, though. 345,000 doses a week. We can expect to reach 40 million by what, June 2023?
No, with respect, what happens is that we get to the point where we double the AstraZeneca doses with the second doses. That is a 12-week gap between first and second on the medical advice.
In addition to that, we have a very large increase in Pfizer, in the latter part of the year, and so we work through this.
We have multiplied by sevenfold the number of vaccinations in a four-and-a-half-week period since the general practice rollout came on board.
The rest of the world, a raging global pandemic. Australia, an island sanctuary, at the same time we are pushing forward with these vaccinations as quickly as possible, but always as safely as possible.
The medical advice did change, and that did present a challenge, but I tell you what, as Australians have done, we have risen to that challenge right through the pandemic.
Minister, just looking at National Cabinet yesterday agreeing to restrict travel to and from India. We know that 40 per cent of COVID cases in Australia in quarantine are from India. Why not just halt all flights because unfortunately what is happening over there, it is completely out of control.
Yes, India is going through a terrible agony at the moment and we have two roles - one is obviously first and foremost to protect the country. Secondly, is to help bring Australians home.
And so commensurate with that safety, the medical estimate, which was agreed by National Cabinet, was to reduce by 30 per cent the number of people coming on government-sponsored flights and to reduce by 30 per cent the number of commercial flights.
That’s in line with what we believe the hotel quarantine system can safely bear. But if that needs to be reduced, we won't hesitate to do it. We did that last night and we will do it again if necessary.
Of course we have had to make changes in relation to PNG and the flights from there at different times. So we have a process to assess risk but we’ve got a hotel quarantine system which is, I think, as good as any in the world and I know that when Britain was looking to set up their system, they turned to Australia.
So, we are always adapting. Last night we adapted on the basis of exactly as you say, the case numbers in India. We think of the people in India and the terrible agony they are going through. At the same time, we have to bring Australians home but keep Australians safe.
Okay, thank you for your time today. Really appreciate it. I know on the Weekend Today show we’re encouraging anyone over the age of 50 get the AstraZeneca. We’ve got the prime candidate in Richard Wilkins. We look forward to you administering him a jab over the weekend.
You’d rather not me do it, but we can arrange a doctor if Richard is happy to do it on air. I reckon that would be a great thing.
No, we want you to do it. We want you to do it.
You are more than capable, Greg. You’re more than capable.
There may be some problems with that. We’ll arrange a qualified nurse or doctor.
Okay. We’ll do that on the weekend. Good on you, thanks for your time.