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Interview with Leila McKinnon and Karl Stefanovic on Channel 9 - The Today Show on 1 April 2021 about COVID-19 vaccine rollout and vaccine supply

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Leila McKinnon and Karl Stefanovic on Channel 9 - The Today Show on 1 April 2021 about COVID-19 vaccine rollout and vaccine supply.

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

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Anyway, Greg Hunt, joins us. Good morning, Minister. Nice to see you.


Are you there?


And I am here. Yes.


Excellent. Minister, 2.5 million doses currently sitting unused. Are you embarrassed by that number?


No, that's not correct. What we see is that as doses are either arriving in Australia or they are arriving from CSL, which has only started last week, they’re being distributed. And we always have to hold contingency for a second dose; three weeks later, for Pfizer or 12 weeks later for AstraZeneca. But, what we're doing is as we receive, we distribute.

Yesterday was a record day - 72,000 vaccines. We’ve now hit 670,000. We’ll be at over 750,000 or three-quarters of a million most likely by the end of today. And we're in a very strong situation where we now have sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia. And that means certainty of supply and with that certainty of supply comes an expansion.

We've now moved to the general public vaccinations for the over 70s, the over 80s, the over 55s for Indigenous Australians, health workers, and also those with chronic diseases.

So, that's expanding and supply dictates the available amount of vaccines and those vaccines are going out. So, that report was just wrong.


Greg, Are you on the same planet as your state counterparts? I'm not sure that they think their supply has been guaranteed at all in any way, shape or form that can be passed on?


No, we're working very closely with them. All states and territories have a 12-week plan and all states and territories have been receiving doses, in accordance with that 12-week plan on the timeframe and the volumes that were set out.


So, what was yesterday about then?


And they're frankly doing a very good job. As are our GPs and the fact that we've been able to expand this at such a rapid rate over the last week and a half, I think is a very important sign of confidence for Australians and that's the point.

Our case numbers are low. Yes, they’re – you know, we saw three cases across two states yesterday. That is a matter for absolute laser-like focus. But, just as an example, where one case was diagnosed in an aged care facility's grounds where one of the maintenance workers had it, that facility had actually been vaccinated almost three weeks ago.

The second dose is due today and that's protecting those residents. And I think that's a really important message. That's the vaccination program actually saving lives and protecting lives, whilst at the same time, 590,000 cases worldwide. Three in Australia. 53 days this year with zero cases. So, I think the rest of the world would say gee, we wish we were in Australia's position.


But when you compare us to the rest of the world, when you look at the vaccine rollout, we're 108th per people in the population, at getting the vaccines out. We really have lagged worldwide in that case, haven't we?


No look, I respectfully don't accept that. We said we would go through a full and thorough safety assessment. We understand that countries that have been facing hundreds and even in some cases thousands of lives lost on a daily basis had to take, had to take emergency action.

But, when you see the vaccine hesitancy in some other countries, the fact that we have, in my view, the best regulator in the world, that did that full and thorough assessment, is not only about protecting Australians, it’s also about the confidence in the vaccines.

And we have much stronger confidence and less hesitancy in Australia than some other countries and we've also worked to the supply. We saw last year intense global competition for masks and test kits and ventilators and we prepared and protected Australia. We also foresaw that there would be intense global competition for vaccines.

We've made sure that we have an international supply, but frankly, we've seen a massive impost on that - 3.1 million doses which were due haven't arrived from Europe and we understand the circumstances. That's why we put in place a sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability for 50 million doses and it was impossible that we do it and yet we've done it.

And that's what's allowing us to ramp up with strong certainty of continuous supply and that's what's going to protect Australians and I want to thank everybody for coming out to be vaccinated. But, especially encourage them to continue to do that and to have confidence that there's enough vaccine for every Australian three times over.


Okay. Your state counter parts yesterday were filthy, with the bun fight that erupted on this show yesterday. But Queensland, in light of that, says it will continue to stockpile two weeks’ worth of vaccines because they don't trust you to deliver any more. How are you going to sort that out?


Well, the message is very clear that the Commonwealth holds a second dose for every dose that

goes out and, in the case of Pfizer, that's because we know there's a three week turn around to the second dose.

And so, if we distribute 100 doses to Queensland, we've received it, all states and territories know that. I think there’s only one state which has been doing that, that's their choice but it just means that vaccines which are available now are perhaps not being used immediately.

And we’ll continue to re-affirm as we've done with all states and territories and the other states and territories respectfully are taking a different approach.

They know that contingencies are being held. It’s been expressed in writing, it’s been expressed verbally and we would encourage them to be making use of all of the doses. But, we're not frustrated or grumpy with any of the states or territories. We think they're doing their job.

That's one thing that was said this week. It wasn't something that had previously- we’d previously thought was an issue with them. But, there's a 12-week plan. They've all got that. All the distribution have been done on that basis and frankly, the important thing here is a massive ramp up. Record vaccinations yesterday - 72,000; over 670,000 already done and we’ll be at more than 750,000 over the course of the next 24 hours.

And I think that that's a really important outcome. And we’ll just continue to vaccinate the nation. Protect the nation and a great example is the Gold Coast aged care facility, where they were vaccinated roughly three weeks ago. Second vaccination today and that's provided an immense measure of certainty in protection for the residents, their carers, and their families.


Okay. Thank you very much.


Good on you, Greg. Thank you very much, we’ll talk to you soon.


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