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Interview with Ross Stevenson on 3AW about COVID vaccine distribution announcement; March rollout; University of Queensland COVID vaccine; Priority groups.

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Ross Stevenson on 3AW about COVID vaccine distribution announcement; March rollout; University of Queensland COVID vaccine; Priority groups.

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

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Well we know the United States, we know parts of Europe now have started distributing and giving out the COVID-19 vaccines.

Australia is going to happen in March, but today some significant news from the Federal Government – they have out sourced DHL and Linfox who are going to distribute the vaccine, and there’s a couple of other companies also involved in this process.

The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, joins us on 3AW Breakfast. Good morning and Merry Christmas, Minister.


And good morning.


This is an outsourcing procedure that’s happened pretty quickly. You’ve got DHL and Linfox actually doing the heavy lifting, and you’ve got Isentia doing the data tracking, you’ve got PWC helping with the roll out as well.

So it’s happened pretty quickly, you must put a lot of effort into it in a short space of time?


Look, we're working incredibly hard, and the public health officials and the team at the Department of Health are literally working through the night.

But that's what we're meant to be doing.

And, you know, this has been an incredibly hard year, but Australians at all levels have been extraordinary.

We are ahead of schedule in terms of our tracking preparation for the vaccine, both the securing of the vaccine, the assessment process, but also the distribution.

So, you know, a huge part of my time at the moment is working through all of the elements of the distribution.

We spoke yesterday with the global head of CSL, with the Australian head of Pfizer, with senior officials at AstraZeneca, with all of the state ministers, and everybody's working in partnership to make sure that the vaccines are assessed, that they're safe, they’re effective, and then that they're distributed rapidly to the Australian public.


Is that while we have to wait till March?


Well, around the world, nobody has actually provided what's called a general population approval.

There have been, in places such as the UK, in the US with hundreds and thousands of deaths daily, emergency authorisations where they haven't had the full data and trial outcomes.

But in their circumstances, that's understandable.

But one of the reasons why we have one of the highest rates of vaccine uptake is there’s very high confidence in Australia's vaccination programme.

And Australians don't want to see us cut corners, they’re- we're very- you know, I think it's very important that we can learn from overseas, but if we have that full assessment, full confidence, we'll have the highest possible uptake rate.

And that's what's ultimately going to protect Australia and build on what we've done this year with our containment and, next year to make sure that we have that universal free, but voluntary, vaccination to all Australians.


Minister, what did we learn from the University of Queensland, I suppose, first roll out? Where it may well have been right but there were some false high- false negatives, I think it is.


HIV, yeah.


For HIV. But clearly there must be some data there that you’d take away that can only enhance, as we go forward, some of the things that they did right?


Yeah, that's right. So our University of Queensland researchers were absolute national heroes.

They've created a new vaccine platform, what's called a molecular clamp - it was shown to be safe, it was shown to be effective, but it would have given a false reading on HIV tests which obviously just couldn't be acceptable at a population level.

But we know that only 10 per cent of vaccines get past what are called the Phase 1 of the first stage of clinical trials. Three out of our four are well beyond that, and so we're in a very strong situation.

You know, that, you've got to have (inaudible) with the science in order to get the outcomes.

They've done that, they are developing now, the University of Queensland, the molecular clamp for multiple potential uses, but with a different protein, which is what, in this case, was the HIV one.

And what we'll see is that I think Australia is likely to have a world leading vaccine breakthrough - possibly not for COVID, but for multiple other types of vaccines and conditions going forward.


We've got three months’ grace period, as you said. Minister. Before we let you go, how is the rollout going to happen?


So we'll start firstly with our health and medical workers, and older Australians in residential aged care, and other critical areas at risk such as those who are on the frontline of the quarantine programme; then work through the age groups.

That is happening around the around the world.

That's obviously very sensible because the age is the single biggest indicator of risk, and our goal is to make sure that, by the end of March, every Australian has had the opportunity to be vaccinated, that seeks to be vaccinated.

And I think that we will have a very high rate of take up, that's indicated, that’s research which shows that 80 per cent of Australians, at this stage, are ready to be vaccinated.

And our job now is to continue to build the confidence.

We have a 95 per cent five-year-old vaccination take up.

And I think Australians are great vaccinators, they've been great in terms of being tested this year.

And it's been an extraordinary year. When you look at what's happening in the rest of the world and you look at Australia, we are literally an island sanctuary. It just says that our capacities are great, but our national spirit is even stronger.


Good on you, Greg. Thank you very much for your time. The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, talking about the distribution deals that have been signed today to distribute and roll out the coronavirus vaccine in March.

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