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Interview with Peter Stefanovic on SKY News First Edition on 19 March 2021 about AstraZeneca vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with with Peter Stefanovic on SKY News First Edition on 19 March 2021 about AstraZeneca vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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

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Well, let’s go to Melbourne now. Joining us live is the Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

First of all, your reaction to this news overnight? A lot of European nations given the go ahead for AstraZeneca. Your government, our government held its nerve, that proves it was a justified decision.


Look, I think this is a very important piece of global, medical news. What we see is the European Medicines Agency has made the same conclusions as the Australian TGA, the Australian Chief Medical Officer, the Australian Technical and Advisory Group on Immunisation that AstraZeneca is safe and effective.

We’ve seen it rolled out with over 11 million doses that have been administered in the UK. It’s saving lives and it’s protecting lives and it will do that here in Australia and it will do that around the world. It’s Great news.


The Government seems to have shifted its language somewhat when it comes to having everyone in this country vaccinated. The original target was October, but now the line is that it’s not a race, slow and steady. So, what is the new target? Is it October, November, January next year?


No, no. Our goal remains for first doses for all Australians that seek it by the end of October. That was reaffirmed on Sunday by Professor Brendan Murphy, his presentation with the Prime Minister.

We’re always vaccine supply dependent. But we’re in a strong position because we have our domestic manufacturing, we have our contract for 50 million doses from CSL. That puts us in a very, very strong position.

We’ve seen massive global supply chain challenges, particularly in Europe. So we’ve been fortunate to receive the vaccines we have. But we determined in August last year that we would make Australia vaccine-independent, with a sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability.

And along with the decision to close the borders with China in February last year, probably one of the two most important pandemic decisions. And that will keep Australia strong, and keep Australia vaccinated.


The New South Wales Premier was critical of the Government, the Federal Government yesterday, Minister. She doubts those targets can be reached on the current program. Are you expecting hiccups, particularly when the next phase begins on Monday?


Look, what we’ve always said is that there will always be challenges. We’ve been in contact with New South Wales and reaffirmed their supplies.

Indeed, they have over 70,000 doses on hand that can be administered at any time in their infantry at the moment. Every one of those is available right now for first doses. So, we continue to encourage them to do the rollout. They’re doing a great job.

Around the country what we see is that we’re likely to pass a quarter of a million vaccinations today. We’re at 570 approximately aged care facilities, and over 50,000 of our most vulnerable aged care residents.

Next week we start what’s known as Phase 1B, which is the first of the general population, the over 80s, the over 70s. There are six million in that group. We think that there’ll be 250,000 doses made available, all won’t be used in the first week, but will be progressively used.

So, it will take time to do that group, but in terms of our goal for the year, we’re in a very strong place.


Right. Well, Laura Jayes had a GP on her program yesterday who said that they’re only getting 100 doses next week and that won’t come until Friday. So, it doesn’t exactly instil confidence.


No, we were always rolling out (inaudible), we actually started early, so we’re rolling out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And we see is that the general practices have an initial 10 week allocation, which was reaffirmed last night. So, they can book in at any time over the next 10 weeks.

We had over 4,000 general practices apply, double what we had initially expected which is fantastic news and be approved. And of those, 98 per cent accepted. So, I remember just over a week ago people saying oh, general practices wouldn’t take it up. 98 per cent that applied and were accepted, have agreed to be part of it, which again, was a higher starting rate and then a higher acceptance rate.

So, they’re doing a great job and we’re ready to go. And practices will come online during the course of next week. And over 100 Commonwealth vaccination clinics announced yesterday and taking bookings as of today for the over 80s and over 70s.

But be patient. Six million people, that will take some months. But we’re in, as I say, because of our sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability, a really strong position.


How are you going, Minister?


Yeah, no, picking up. And you know, we all get infections and things like that in life, and I had what’s called a cellulitis, which is a form of septic infection of the leg, and it gives you a bit of a fever.

And so, fortunately though, the New South Wales health system took very good care of me, and St Vincent’s, both the public and the private side. The nurses, people such as Bina and Neave and so many others. The doctors were just amazing. So, I’ll give a shout out and a thank you to them. And to Paru in particular who was my principle carer.


Okay. Minister Greg Hunt, thanks for your time this morning as always. We’ll talk to you soon.



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