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Interview with Jim Wilson on 2GB about the vaccine rollout, COVID-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Jim Wilson on 2GB about the vaccine rollout, COVID-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Big news today. Six million Australians can now book in and get their COVID vaccine from Monday. GP clinics around the country will be able to offer the job to any eligible person, that's people who meets the criteria of Phase 1B on a first come, first serve basis.

There's also a crisis unfolding as far as the virus is concerned in our neighbours in PNG. And I'm very keen to ask our Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, about the situation in PNG, as well as also this rollout of these vaccinations.

And the Health Minister joins me on the line. Minister, welcome back to Drive.


And good afternoon, Jim.


So who exactly is now eligible to get the vaccine?


So the people who are eligible now, the over 80’s, the over 70’s and this will be from next Monday. In addition to that, we have indigenous Australians over 55, those who have what are called immunocompromised, so they've got a very serious underlying medical condition and then the health workers. So all of the health workers.

We've been working our way through the first 100,000 frontline workers. And so that's the basic group and then some critical frontline emergency service workers. But the big news is it's the over 80’s and the over 70’s, indigenous Australians and the people with underlying medical conditions.


So how will you contact them, as far as those ones that are due to have the jabs from Monday?


So it's obviously a major public campaign. There are six million in that group, exactly as you say. And next week we imagine that there will be enough vaccines for 250,000.

We don't think that general practises will cover all of those in that time because some practises might start on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday, but it will progressively build up. So we say to everybody, please be patient, just like the flu.

We can't do everybody on day one, but we'll continue to expand it out. And it will be, many general practises will in particular be contacting those patients who are over 80 or over 70, it'll be up to the general practise, or those who have a sort of very serious underlying health condition.

And so public advertising, general practitioners may choose to contact and we'll just continue to spread that message.


Okay. So how about people who can't go online and book, can they call up the clinics or is there a number for them to call for help?


Yes, there is. So two things. If you're thinking, how do I do this? You can either go to, and that will have what's called an eligibility checker.

So you can see, do I qualify for phase 1B? But, you know, if you're over 70, you do. And it's significantly- you can there, if you fill in the eligibility checker, you'll see the general practises, the over 1000 general practises that start next week. And then over each of the coming weeks, more will be added and that will grow to over 4000 by the end of April.

And so that will significantly expand. You can see what's in your area and you can, some will take direct bookings from the site. Others will have a click through to their own website, and others will simply have their phone number.

And, you know, I've been talking to some of the kids of parents in their 80’s who have gone online, they've done a great job. They've navigated it. They may have ended up making a phone call.

So you can call your general practise directly if they're on the list. And all up, you know, we'll have over 4000 general practises by the end of April.

We'll also have what are called Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics, and there'll be over 100 of those. And in New South Wales, they'll be over 30.

So they’re big vaccination clinics being run by the Commonwealth, being run by GPs which aren’t just focussing on their own patients, they're focussing on anybody, first come, first served.

And the states will also progressively expand their vaccination clinics. Significant numbers of new doses going to the states.

So lots of ways in.


Very good. I mean there's a number of options there, that website again If you can't go online, then please just call your GP if you're in that Phase 1B.


Yeah. And there is actually also, there is actually a Commonwealth number.


Oh good. We should- have you got that one there, Minister?


Yes, indeed. It's 1800-020-080. 1800-020-080.


Okay. So if you want to go online. the number again from the Minister, 1800-020-080 if you want to know if you're eligible for this Phase 1B and the rollout from Monday.

Now we just had a listener Minister, who's got in touch. They’re a family member of a nurse working on the frontline. When will that family get their vaccine?


So the family will be treated like every other Australian. So it's those direct frontline workers that get it. It will depend on where they are and their phases. And it's been the medical advice that's determined each of these groups.

Of course, we've got a very large number of Australians and so this next group is six million. And if you are a health worker, the frontline health workers have been in Phase 1A, but now we expand out to all health workers, and then it will depend on if you are in that group of over 80’s, over 70’s, Indigenous over 55, immunocompromised or health workers.

And then Phase 2 will be those over 60, those over 50, certain critical workers, and then Phase 2B will be everybody in the balance of the population under 50.


Okay. We’ve seen the AstraZeneca vaccine be blocked in a number of European countries. We had the TGA on the program yesterday. They were adamant that it's safe.

You, as the Federal Health Minister, you've had the jab once and obviously ended up in hospital. But just to clarify, just to clarify, just to clarify, it was not related to the vaccination.


No, it was something called cellulitis. I mean, I think many of the listeners may have had themselves or a family member. It's basically a bacterial infection. In my case, it was in the upper right hand side, probably too much information for a family program.

And it was agonising, but B, what it does is it brings on a sort of malaria like fever. They treated me, the magnificent people at St Vincent's public and then private treated me with intravenous and antibacterials or antibiotics over four days. I’m improving every day.

And it was clearly categorical, absolutely something that I likely had beforehand. And it was not related to the vaccine whatsoever. That's the absolute written medical advice that I've got.


Sure. Okay. I’m speaking with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Now, Minister, Queensland is now advising anyone who's ever had a serious allergic reaction in the past to delay getting a vaccine. It comes after the state recorded four anaphylactic reactions to the AstraZeneca jab in the past two days.

What's your message for my listeners this afternoon?


So they did that as a temporary measure whilst the TGA investigated. So the TGA is our Therapeutic Goods Administration. We think the best medical regulator in the world, but they’re just absolutely superb.

The TGA has now investigated and released a statement and given a press conference which says that this particular batch of AstraZeneca vaccine has been used extensively across the nation with only one other suspected case. So it looks like it, across the entire country.

Following the initial review, the advice from the TGA is the AstraZeneca vaccine should continue to be administered as per the TGA’s approved information and following the advice of what's known as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

What does that mean? They've done the review, they’ve found it’s safe, and continue on. And Queensland's been advised of that.

I've spoken with the Queensland Health Minister and their Director-General or the CEO of the Health Department, along with Professor Brendan Murphy, and they seemed greatly comforted by that.


Good news. Now, before I let you go, the COVID crisis in our neighbours in Papua New Guinea. This morning, the Prime Minister announced that Australia will send 8000 vaccines and millions of PPE items to our northern neighbours to help stop the outbreak.

How worried and concerned are you about the situation in PNG?


It is serious. The World Health Organisation has characterised as a large scale community transmission, and we know that 19 of 22 provinces have recorded cases, and Port Moresby Hospital is very close to capacity.

So we've stepped in. One, there's $144 million for regional- or vaccines. Two, we're immediately sending 8000 of our own vaccines from Australia to PNG to help vaccinate their frontline health workers and we've asked the EU to release a million doses of our EU AstraZeneca doses that they've been holding on to.

As you know, they've blocked the shipment, and we have 3.1 million there and we've asked them to release them for PNG and we'll just keep going until we get there.

And then, we've also provided over a million masks, 100,000 gloves, gowns, goggles, hand sanitiser bottles and very importantly, 200 what are called non-invasive ventilators.

So they're easier to use with, you know, people who may not have intensive care training and these could be absolute lifesavers.


Minister, always good to chat. Thanks for your time this afternoon.


Thanks very much, Jim. Thank you.


Good on you. That's Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

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