Date published: 
8 November 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

Restrictions have eased in New South Wales overnight, as the state hits 90 per cent fully vaccinated. It comes as Australia begins the next phase in the vaccination rollout.

From today, anyone who had their second dose at least six months ago is eligible for a booster shot to further improve protection against COVID-19. Pfizer is the preferred booster jab, regardless of what vaccine you had initially, and it will now also be available in pharmacies across the country.

Joining me now is Health Minister Greg Hunt. Morning to you, Minister.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning, Nat.

NATALIE BARR:

Now, two doses, you’ve been telling us provides a very high protection from severe disease. So why do we need a booster?

GREG HUNT:

So, a booster is exactly as the name says. A booster in that it adds additional protection, and that helps limit the risk of getting the disease, of passing on the disease, and most importantly, of people becoming very ill, needing hospitalisation or potentially losing their life.

So the booster program is in Australia, after Israel, one of the first in the world, and it’s available to all Australians who have now past six months since their second dose.

But we’re already at hundred 173,000 people who have had their boosters, so we’re off to a flying start. GPs, state clinics, Commonwealth clinics, Indigenous medical centres, aged care and disability, they’ve been vaccinating people with boosters so it's a great start and good news for Australians.

NATALIE BARR:

Some countries like Israel are only accepting international travellers who’ve had the vaccine in the past six months.

Are we going to be doing that now that we’ve opened up borders and people are starting to come through?

GREG HUNT:

So at this point, our medical advice is that if you have had two doses, you are fully vaccinated and the booster adds to that, but our international travel is based on the medical advice and the medical advice is that two doses represents full vaccination.

NATALIE BARR:

And you have to have had that within six months?

GREG HUNT:

No, that’s not a requirement. So we’ve asked all these questions, medical advice around the world is under constant review, but that medical advice is two doses represents full vaccination and a third dose is a booster, and we’re beginning that program formally today.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. We’re also waiting on the TGA to approve vaccines for the 5 to 11-year-old kids. A bit of concern, I guess, for people going into holidays and maybe travelling overseas and the little kids can’t get it, possibly. What are you hearing about that?

GREG HUNT:

So Pfizer has submitted the first of its data in Australia, and there’s more to come.

There’s only one country in the world that’s provided an emergency use application, and I spoke last night with Sir Andrew Pollard who’s the head of the UK Oxford Vaccines Group, and his position was very clear, that a full and thorough investigation around the world is exceptionally important.

And we’re going through that in Australia and we may well be one of the first countries in the world to begin the 5 to11s as we’ve done with the booster program. But right now it goes through the TGA, which is our Therapeutic Goods Administration, the medical regulator, and then through vaccine advisers which is Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

The critical thing is a full and thorough assessment. Our kids are far less likely to either get or, in particular, to have serious complications, but we want to make that vaccine available and we’ll be able to do that as soon as the medical regulators approve it, if they approve it.

NATALIE BARR:

Yeah, okay, we certainly want to go through that process, don't we? Minister, we know you’ve got to go. Thanks for your time this morning.

GREG HUNT:

Take care, and well done Australia. Almost 90 per cent first vaccinations and over 80 per cent double dose.

NATALIE BARR:

Yeah, it’s an amazing milestone, isn’t it? Thank you.

 

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