Date published: 
13 September 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has joined us now. There's a lot to cover here, with Australia's sourced effort to supply the Moderna vaccine. As Lieutenant General Frewen told me last week, there is plenty of vaccine available, he said. He said the problem now is not the vaccine, the problem is people using the vaccine.

We've also got extra doses of Pfizer. The Moderna will go through pharmacies, extra doses of Pfizer already acquired. September and October should be meagre months. There’s a vaccine blitz about to get underway in the western northern suburbs. I think 83 per cent of the cases in Melbourne come from the western and northern suburbs.

I spoke to a western suburbs GP earlier who said he's had 100 COVID positives through the doors, but he can't get enough vaccine still. He says it is supply, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, not just vaccine hesitancy.

On the line, Greg Hunt. Good morning.

GREG HUNT:

And good morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So what are the latest vaccination figures? What have you got?

GREG HUNT:

So look, overnight, we've just received the figure of 133,201 for Sunday, an excellent result Sunday-wise. 328,000 for the weekend. So all up, that takes us to 22.8 million vaccinations in Australia. And that’s happening at about the rate of 1.8 million a week.

So incredible numbers. People are being amazing coming forward. And what we're seeing is those rates really rise very rapidly across all states and territories. So Victoria at the moment in particular, doing a great job.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That's 328,000 for the weekend, and takes in Victoria as well, obviously. Does that include the state hubs or just the federal things?

GREG HUNT:

No, that's a combination of state centres, the general practices, aged care and Commonwealth vaccination clinics and Aboriginal medical services around the country.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And the Moderna. Now we've had a lot of people ringing today telling me they're trying to book Moderna for whenever it's available a couple of weeks and the state numbers, the state vaccination centre, just can't do it, so they haven't got any appointments open yet. When will it be available?

GREG HUNT:

So Moderna will go through pharmacies and that will be available for the week of the 20th, so that starts next week. We will initially start with 1,800 pharmacies around the country in the week of the 20th, and that's including about 361 in Victoria.

And it includes all of the pharmacies in the north west of Melbourne who are seeking to participate, and that'll grow by another 1,800 the week after. So Moderna starts next week.

This week, we have 3,000 general practices around the country that are delivering Pfizer commencing today, and different practices will start on different days. And that'll include 763 in Victoria, with a very significant increase in support for pharmacies right across the North West.

I think the pharmacy you interviewed earlier, they will have increased from 300 doses a fortnight to 900 doses a fortnight. So I think they were notified last week, I'm advised, but I understand if not everybody knows, or be able to.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It was maybe there's a crossway, it was a doctor's surgery, not a pharmacy.

GREG HUNT:

Sorry, I apologise. That's my error. The complete family medical practice, an excellent practice, by the way, will increase their doses from 300 a fortnight.

Across the state, it's moving to 600 and then there are 376 all up that will increase to 900 with a focus on the hotspot areas, any one of those.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Why do you think we've got this problem? 83 per cent of Victoria's cases are the northern and western suburbs. Why?

GREG HUNT:

Well, you will have a cluster of cases that radiates out from often an initial unknown group. There was an outbreak in Sydney earlier on in the year, at the start of the year, which was in the Northern Beaches.

You'll have an outbreak in just different parts and different areas and it radiates out. And so that's the reality that you have what are called hotspots. And we're seeing that in Sydney. We're seeing that in Sydney earlier on in the year with the Northern Beaches, and that's what's happening in Melbourne now. This is obviously where it travelled undetected for a period of time after the previous outbreak.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you don't think it is vaccine hesitancy or vaccine supply, you think it's just where they've started? There's no other reason?

GREG HUNT:

Well, outbreaks they radiate out from a particular starting point, and that's what's called the epidemiology of the disease pathology from around the world.

But that is why we are staging in partnership with the Victorian Government, this blitz, 400,000 vaccines coming to Victoria over and above what would have been the case through GPs, through pharmacies and through the state government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, I wanted to ask you about the blitz, because the Victorian Premier was asked about that yesterday, and I'll play you what he had to say because it is of concern. The Victorian Premier asked about what you would announce, or the Prime Minister was announcing yesterday.

This is what he said.

[EXCERPT]

JOURNALIST:

Were you given a heads up on that before it was announced?

DANIEL ANDREWS:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Were you expecting a heads up on that before it was announced?

DANIEL ANDREWS:

Well, it's hard to know what to expect, really, isn't it? I didn't expect that hundreds of thousands of doses that should come to Victoria would have gone to Sydney. They did. This is fantastic news.

[EXCERPT ENDS]

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would it really be that rough to pick up the phone and ring?

GREG HUNT:

We have.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But before it was announced or not?

GREG HUNT:

I was working with Martin Foley last week, late in the week, and we said that there'd be a package across three fronts announced on the weekend of doses for the state, doses for pharmacies, and doses for GPs.

127,000 for GPs, 180,000 pharmacies and 108,000 for the state. General Frewen, the head of COVID Shield, had worked with the secretary of the Victorian Health Department and indicated the Victorian government was getting the 100,000, plus some hundreds of thousands from Moderna and Pfizer.

And indeed, the Premier's media unit, I believe, they’d been doing some work with The Age on Saturday and so it’s unfortunate that the only person who wasn’t aware was the Premier. But we move on.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

No, yeah, we do move on to an extent. But the Premier has been sniping at you as you well know, or the government, and you’re telling me that you had told Martin Foley what was coming. General Frewen had told the Secretary of health what was coming. And the media unit knew about it, and the Premier didn’t, either that or he was conning us.

GREG HUNT:

I can’t speak for them. All I can say is Martin Foley and I worked out the three areas. He then put it in writing and we responded yesterday. And we had indicated that we would respond yesterday across these three areas.

And in particular, General Frewen was able to work with his counterpart in Victoria, and there was advice about the Victorian numbers.

So, you know what it is, Neil? If I’m honest, there was a major announcement. For whatever reason, there may have been a desire to divert. They’ve achieved that outcome.

What matters for Victorian is 400,000 additional doses. What matters is we’ve been working with Victoria precisely to prepare that across the three fronts that were agreed, with a focus in the blitz in the north west of Melbourne.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you suggesting the Premier was trying to divert attention from your major announcement on the vaccines coming here?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I can let him speak for himself, but we’re announcing 400,000.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, but that’s what you’re suggesting, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you’re suggesting when you talk about diversion? That’s disgraceful if it is right.

GREG HUNT:

Here’s what I’m saying. It’s very much one-way traffic. We’re always working with all of the states. And from time to time, some of them will, as you know, seek a conflict. And what I would say is interrogate the claim to many, rather than simply to rebroadcast it.

Because there is no question that we’ve been working with them. We’d indicated. And indeed, the letter from Martin Foley reflected exactly our discussion, and my reply back to him has reflected that discussion, and our announcement reflected that discussion.

And so, the goal here was clearly to move from the announcement to another topic. The announcement is actually about supporting Victorians and saving and protecting lives with the blitz in the north west. And if you're listening in the north west, if you're listening anywhere in Victoria, please come forward to be vaccinated.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Mr Hunt, I just put to you that people are struggling out here. They're really struggling to survive. You know that.

GREG HUNT:

I agree.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You know that and the last thing they want is bloody politics in the middle of it. And that's what we're getting.

GREG HUNT:

And I agree with you. And that's the point. You know, we provide after working with the Victorian government, in the terms that we're discussing, in fact, in addition, I think Victoria asked for 340,000. We were able to provide 417,000 doses.

So I couldn't be less focussed on those political things. Sometimes we have to respond. You're the one that raised it, which I respect. That's your job. But my response is we've worked with them. This came about precisely because we'd been working with them and having these discussions.

What matters for Victorians is there's a blitz to increase by over 400,000 on top of the doses that they were receiving. And so now over the course of available doses for September, from those delivered on 30th of August to the 27th of September, 2.3 million mRNA vaccines, all up about 3.5 million vaccines for Victoria.

These are enormous numbers to really drive what is a very good vaccination rate of 66 per cent up to increase and to aim to reach that 80 per cent mark as soon as possible.

NEIL MITCHELL:

A couple of questions from the audience, if I may. From Kerry: will over 60s be eligible for Moderna?

GREG HUNT:

At this stage, it's a 12 to 59, and we'll continue to review that. AstraZeneca is available for the over 60s. It's available for all ages, but AstraZeneca at the moment has seen an over 60 rate of 87.3 per cent and an over 70 rate of 90.8 per cent.

And so it's a highly effective vaccine. Very strong international evidence on its longevity, and it's been the (INAUDIBLE) in over 170 countries. And so it's a very, very important global vaccine that's saving lives.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And from Michael: when will Novavax vaccine be available in Australia?

GREG HUNT:

Yeah. So, Novavax has not put in what's called its registration for approval to Australia yet. I'm not aware that they've done it anywhere else, I'd have to check.

We're expecting my last discussion with them to test exactly this. We’ll see first arrivals in November and December. We've got 51 million Novavax. That's what's called a protein vaccine, and that's a more traditional vaccine.

And that will be available in the latter part of this year on the most recent advice. And then secondly, as a booster for next year, if we move to boosters, but we are expecting that it's more likely than not we'll have boosters.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I mentioned earlier on air there's a rumour, and it's totally unconfirmed, that CSL might have become an exposure site. Has that been reported to you? Is that true or not? Do you know?

GREG HUNT:

No. Other than your question to me, I have not heard of that, so we'll make enquiries and the state will make enquiries. But I have absolutely zero verification and I would hope that that's not the case.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Hopefully it’s wrong. When do you think we'll hit 70 per cent one vax, and 80 per cent fully?

GREG HUNT:

Well, what we know is that New South Wales has roared into the 70 per cent and the ACT, Victoria is roaring through to 60 per cent. So I'm not putting a timeframe, but it does appear that we'll be in a position, well, it's very clear that we'll be in a position to make sure that every Australian has the opportunity to be vaccinated before the end of October.

But New South Wales has roared through the 70s and it's at 78.5 per cent. What matters for Victoria is that just shows that the demand, which we had been most worried about of getting from 70 to 80, has been incredibly strong there.

The same in the ACT. And Victoria is now vaccinating at an incredible rate, that's the real work. Commonwealth, state, our amazing GPs, our pharmacists that are doing AstraZeneca and will start Moderna. And above all else, the Victorian people who are coming forward.

So I'm not going to put a date on it. I do know that we're continuing to beat all of the expectations that we had only two and three months ago.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I thank you so much for your time. All the best. Thank you for talking to us.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much. We'll get there. And to everybody, please keep coming forward to be vaccinated, and work with your GP, work with the Commonwealth system. The eligibility checker at health.gov.au, and the pharmacies are coming online from the 20th.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much, Health Minister, Greg Hunt.

Ministers: