Well, how good’s the number zero? Yesterday Australia recorded zero locally transmitted coronavirus cases, so what’s that – that’s now twice in the past week. And Victoria’s on a record run, nine straight days of no cases. You little ripper.
Back in August, Victoria was peaking at 725 cases in a single day.
Now there is an alert for Sydney’s northwest, traces of the virus have been detected in the sewage around Rouse Hill, but here’s the good news – we’re talking about a vaccine. Production of AstraZeneca’s vaccine will start today in Victoria.
Greg Hunt, the Federal Health Minister’s live on the line, good morning to you, Minister.
And good morning Ben.
This is fantastic news. Production starts today?
It does. We were briefed last week by CSL, so one of Australia’s great companies.
They’ll be making all up 30 million units of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, in Australia and 51 million of the University of Queensland vaccine.
So that’s incredibly positive for the future, it won’t happen overnight. I think it’s very important to be clear about that.
Our expectation is once clinical trials and approvals and manufacturing are done, the first vaccines are likely to be available in about March.
That’s not a hard date, but that would start with of course the health workers and the elderly if it’s approved for them.
But we’ll work through and make sure that the whole country has availability to vaccines during the course of 2021.
Okay. So, health workers and the elderly will be top of the list and we’re hoping for March. We don’t yet know whether these vaccines are going to work, right?
(Inaudible) no final position, what’s increasingly evident from the clinical trials – which are the early tests with volunteers around the world – is that there are strong immune responses; what are called antibody and T cell responses.
But the full extent – the ability to fully prevent transmission – those are elements that are being determined.
But the balance of probability is increasingly on the side of having a vaccine that will work, and then the question will be just how effective is that vaccine.
But it’s certainly going to be a significant improvement.
And Minister, the other question will be, do you want the vaccine or not, right? It’s going to be up to each Australian to choose.
It is, it’s going to be voluntary, but we’ll encourage as many people as possible and- really hearteningly, in the last two weeks, we released data that showed our five-year-old vaccination rates in Australia, in the midst of the pandemic, have gone up for two successive quarters.
So we’re at 94.9 per cent for the whole of the Australian population and 97 per cent for Indigenous Australians, so Australians are doing an incredible job at vaccinating.
Our flu vaccines were at record levels this year, so we’re confident that we’ll have a high take up amongst the Australian population.
Our job is to make sure that it’s safe and effective and available.
But also to provide the public with the confidence that this is something that can save lives and protect lives.
How good is it to be able to report zero locally transmitted coronavirus cases, not only in New South Wales or Queensland but every state and territory right across the country. And what about Victoria, nine days straight?
Look, we’re getting tremendous results and right across the country Australians have done an incredible job.
Yesterday, again, I was able to report that it was zero cases nationally, we’ve had global interest.
I’ve seen reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times and the BBC about Australia’s outcomes.
I think what Australia is, is obviously fundamentally important to the people of Australia but it’s also a beacon of hope for the world. And I think that’s a very important message.
We’ve had not just the first wave that the world faced, but in Victoria we had a second wave and New South Wales was beating back the challenge with cases that were coming from Victoria.
So all up, it’s been an incredible Australian response.
We’re not out of the woods yet, I think it’s very important to say that. We know how infectious this virus is.
We see the news from New South Wales that there are fragments or remnants of the virus in waste water treatment, and so all of us still need to be alert, to practice the discipline with our hygiene, our sanitising, our coughs, being tested is incredibly important.
But, I just want to say thank you to Australia.
Now you’re the first Federal Minister I’ve had the opportunity to talk to since developments in the US over the weekend, so what does the US election result mean for Australia?
Well, it means we obviously continue to work with the United States as we’ve done, and we do that- there are different parties in Government in Australia at different times, different parties in Government in America, the deep strength of the alliance is that we work with a partner in the United States and we congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
And the Australian Government and the Australian people will continue to work with America and it’s an immensely important relationship for Australia.
And the US role in international security is absolutely fundamental.
Well, I know you were due to be going for a run and you’ve delayed it just so you could talk to us, so thank you so much. How often do you go for the run is it a daily thing?
Yes, I try to get out daily, subject to other commitments. But it’s always a part of my day.
Good for your head. Thanks so much for your time.
Take care, cheers Ben.
Greg Hunt, the Federal Health Minister joining us on the line.