Date published: 
13 November 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NEIL BREEN:

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, arrived in Queensland overnight. He’s heading to the University of Queensland today to check on the process of its vaccine. It’s looking promising, with hopes it is safe for all, including the elderly. He’s on the line – good morning to you, Minister.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning, Neil.

NEIL BREEN:

So, the University of Queensland, you're heading there today?

GREG HUNT:

That's right, I'm there this morning; I'm meeting with Professor Paul Young and his team.

But we had a little bit of a preliminary discussion last night, and I've got to say the progress is very, very promising – that the early data is that it's safe, the vaccine, the University of Queensland molecular clamp, and that it's doing the job, it’s producing what's called a positive anti- antibody response.

In other words, it's doing the job, and in particular for the elderly it's shown to be effective and I think this is immensely heartening and important news for Australia.

NEIL BREEN:

I suppose, Minister, now people are say- will be asking, okay, so the one that you've been talking about this week and that Pfizer announced internationally, that's got everyone excited that we might be able to have out there by March if the TGA approves it, so, is there that vaccine, and there's the possibility of the University of Queensland vaccine?

Or do we just get as many as we can from wherever we can?

GREG HUNT:

So, we've got agreements with four vaccine makers.

There's the University of Queensland and CSL – that's 51 million units, good progress on that.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is what's known as an mRNA vaccine – there's 10 million units of that.

You then have 40 million for Novavax, which is a protein vaccine like the University of Queensland.

And 33.8 million units for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is a viral vector vaccine. Sorry about the technical names, but.

NEIL BREEN:

You're all over it. I’ve got to say, you are all over it, Greg.

GREG HUNT:

Yeah. We’ve got different types of vaccines to- you know, because we're doing something the world has never done with the coronavirus vaccine.

NEIL BREEN:

Yes.

GREG HUNT:

But the safety and the results are looking good for all of them at this stage. So, our medical experts have given us really first class advice.

NEIL BREEN:

So, it's 10 million of the Pfizer vaccines at this stage for March, that's what you were speaking about earlier in the week?

GREG HUNT:

Well, so 10 million, and the first vaccines are likely to begin in March, that's our expectation.

NEIL BREEN:

Okay. Yep.

GREG HUNT:

And that has strengthened this week. So, I've been cautious all the way through.

NEIL BREEN:

Yep.

GREG HUNT:

And we've quietly worked behind the scenes in selecting, in contracting, in arranging the distribution.

The really exciting distribution about the Pfizer vaccine, because people said, gosh, you need to store it at minus 70, how would you ever do that? The deal comes with the distribution process. if you think of them as sophisticated ‘eskies’ with dry ice and with remote temperature sensors.

NEIL BREEN:

Yeah.

GREG HUNT:

So a great sort of Australian response to a problem to transport them around the country. And similarly, though, we've got very strong distribution processes, whether it's for AstraZeneca, the University of Queensland, Novavax.

And our goal is very simple – to make sure that every Australian who wants it is vaccinated within 2021.

NEIL BREEN:

So you'll have two major jobs ahead of you – one will be getting all Australians on board, and second will be the logistics. Because you can't just rock up to your GP and say, I’m here for my jab. It's a massive logistical exercise.

GREG HUNT:

It is. We've set up an entire division in the Department of Health to focus on the rollout of this vaccine.

On the education and encouragement side, I think the news of the data around safety and the positive antibody response, those sorts of things – presuming they continue to come, and I remain quietly hopeful and confident – will give confidence to the Australian people.

But we're great vaccinators; we've got a 94.9 per cent rate of five-year-old immunisation.

And the- one of the most extraordinary things of this year is, through all the lockdowns, through all the challenges, our five-year-old vaccination rates have gone up as a country, and I just couldn't be more thankful to the people.

Our flu vaccination rates have more than doubled over the course of the last four years.

And so, Australians are very good vaccinators, and we'll continue to encourage everybody to take up the vaccine.

And I think that, with a strong education campaign, that we’ll be in a very strong position.

NEIL BREEN:

Well, I'll be first in line. I just think we have to go for it as a nation, we've got to take the advice of people like yourself who've got our welfare at heart and go for it.

Can I ask you, and the thing that confuses our listeners, Minister, is- okay, so we've got a Chief Health Officer in Queensland who says A, and you've got a Chief Health Officer for the Federal Government who says B, and then there's one in Victoria and New South Wales; they don't seem to be aligning their planets.

Why do the chief health officers have different advice? Why does our chief health officer say, you can't have anyone here from metropolitan Sydney? You can't have this and you can't have that? It just confuses people.

GREG HUNT:

Sure. The national position, and I spoke with the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Paul Kelly last night, is that our viral (inaudible) in Australia is very, very low.

We've had zero community cases of transmission in four out of the last five days, and there's no reason for any state or territory to be closed to any state or territory.

And that means that family can potentially reunite, whether it's for weddings, for birth, whether it's for funerals, whether it's just simply for Christmas or common humanity.

And so, there are no medical reasons, no medical barriers – and I say this respectfully.

And when you have zero cases of transmission in four out of the last five days, when you're seeing those sorts of results at a time when the world has, well, yesterday, over 600,000 cases.

We are an island sanctuary, but we are one single country and the medical advice to us is absolutely clear.

I can't speak for others; I can speak for what the Australian Government's advice is from the most senior of medical advisers.

NEIL BREEN:

Well, Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, we're happy that you've spent at least the last 14 days in Canberra, and were allowed into Queensland. Have a good visit to the University of Queensland today, and thanks for coming up and joining us in Brisbane.

GREG HUNT:

Well, thanks to all our Queenslanders for everything they've done to keep the virus down.

NEIL BREEN:

There he goes, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. We’ll see you later, Minister.

GREG HUNT:

Take care. Cheers.

Former ministers: