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Minister Hunt's Press Conference in Melbourne on 23 September 2021 with an update on the vaccination rollout, use of sotrovimab and home quarantine

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's Press Conference Melbourne on 23 September 2021 with an update on the vaccination rollout, use of sotrovimab and home quarantine.

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

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General public


And good afternoon, everybody. It’s a difficult day for many, but there are real causes for hope today. For the first time, over 2 million Australians have been jabbed in seven days, 2 million Australians have had the vaccine in the last seven days.

And that is an immense national achievement, but it’s 2 million stories of hope and 2 million stories of protection for themselves, but for every Australian.

In particular, there’s been 990,000 doses given in the last three days. We’re seeing increases in supply, increases in demand, increases in delivery across all the channels.

We’ve seen 337,000 doses in the last 24 hours. That’s a record Wednesday, and a record day for primary care. Our GPs, our pharmacists, and our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, all coming together.

What we also know, that means we’ve now reached 74.1 per cent of first doses and 49.3 per cent of second doses. In the next 48 hours, we’ll pass 50 per cent of all eligible Australians being double-dosed. In terms of the over 74 per cent of eligible Australians who've had one dose. That means there's approximately 1.2 million to go to achieve the 80 per cent mark.

And we're doing over 300,000 a day. That's a mixture of first and second doses, but that gives you a sense of the measure, the scale, the scope of what's an unprecedented rollout which will see enough vaccine in Australia over the course of October for every Australian to have had two doses.

Now people will be at different stages, but those vaccine supplies are strong and clear, and manifesting themselves in 2 million doses in seven days. In particular, 90.3 per cent of over 60s have now had at least one dose, so over 90 per cent of every Australian over the age of 60 has now been vaccinated.

And in our aged care, we're at almost 99 per cent of workers. 98.9 per cent of workers have had a vaccination, and that's an immense national achievement. A mandated program, but work through with unions and employers done carefully over a considerable period of time, and saving lives and protecting lives and showing the way for all Australians.

In particular as well, I want to talk about the opposite end of the scale, our young Australians. In terms of our young Australians, our 12- to 15-year-olds, we've already reached 21 per cent vaccination rate, or 265,000 Australians between 12 and 15 who've been vaccinated.

And so I want to thank all of the kids, all of the teens, and all of the parents for enabling this. At the same time, there are new options for vaccination opening up every day.

Today and tomorrow, 1800 pharmacies will be vaccinating with Moderna. Next week, up to another 1800 will be vaccinating with Moderna. And so what that means is on top of the over 4500 general practises and Commonwealth vaccination clinics run by GPs, there are, across the country, over 9500 options along with state clinics.

That means people have options for vaccines. It means that they have options for points of presence. And I think that's an incredibly important thing.

This Grand Final weekend, please come out and be jabbed. Please take the opportunity, whether it's the public holiday in Victoria tomorrow, or it's your pharmacy, or it's one of the mass vaccination clinics, please take that up.

But wherever you are in Australia, no matter what your team is, you can be part of one team, which is the Australian team, to be vaccinated this Grand Final weekend.

Lastly, I want to mention some really important developments in cardiac and diabetes treatment, and treatment for beautiful young children. Under the Medical Research Future Fund, we're announcing 12 new grants for breakthrough new devices and treatments. It's $9 million, but it's not the money, it's the treatments that matter.

To give you an example, the University of Sydney has a breakthrough new treatment for acute stroke. We'll be supporting that with $750,000 and then one, which I think is really powerful and is a very important point of hope to finish on. Breakthrough new ventilation equipment for newborn babies who are in need of care and resuscitation. And to be able to provide $800,000 for resuscitating, providing breath, providing ventilation for tailored newborn needs, I think is a really powerful part of what Australia is doing.

So there are challenges, but there are real causes for hope. And you know what, we'll get through it, as we've done. We have the second lowest rate of loss of life in the OECD for 2021, building on what we did in 2020. So this weekend, come out and get jabbed for your team, the Australian team.

I'll start with those that are on the phone, if I if I may and then come to the room. We have Madura.


Thanks, Minister. Sorry about that.


That's alright.


The Queensland Premier today shied away from confirming what freedoms people in the state can get once we hit the 80 per cent vaccination rate, questioning why anyone would want to travel overseas anyway and that the national plan isn't settled.

Is there a certainty around the national plan, or could the residents of some states be shut off from the rest of the country and the world when you hit 80 per cent?


Well, the national plan is very clear and very simple. Critical thresholds at 70 and 80 per cent double-dosed, and we're on that pathway right now.

As I say, 74 per cent of the nation has now had at least one dose, and that's increasing at a record rate. In terms of that plan, that's about giving people back their own freedoms. And it's a contract with the Australian people that all leaders, Commonwealth, and state, and territory, have signed up to.

And it's a partnership not between leaders. It's a partnership between leaders and the people, between the premiers and the people, between the Prime Minister and the people. And that's why it's so important.

In terms of international travel, there are children, parents, family members who are overseas that have been separated. There are births and funerals, there are all of the great events of life, the human elements that allow us to connect. That's why it's so important. It's not about international travel, it's about people connecting with their families, their friends, their loved ones. It's about our most basic humanity.

And that's what we want to be able to return to. And that's why the national plan, which has been agreed by all states and territories, published, and made available to the public, is such an important roadmap for the nation.

And I welcome the fact that Victoria and New South Wales, precisely under that plan, have published, have published their guides to what they will do at 70 and 80 per cent.



Thanks, Minister. Daniel Andrews today said he doesn't have enough stock in the freezer to bring forward second Pfizer doses from six to three weeks at state clinics.

When will jurisdictions find out their Pfizer allocations for the whole of October? And will Victoria receive enough supply to bring forward those second doses?


So, look, I understand today’s a difficult day for Victoria, and I may detect a pattern on such days and I could say something but I won’t. I’ll just give the facts.

So I’ve already provided to the Victorian Minister, Martin Foley - I confirmed it this morning; I think the time was 8.18 AM - their supplies over the course of October.

I think we went through every week, the supplies for Victoria, and every week the supplies for, in particular, the state clinics.

And just to give you the coming weeks, if I may, well, to give you all of September and the first half of October, with the final figures to be confirmed in the next 48 hours for the last part, but we’ve already provided it to Victoria. 

For Victoria mRNA, knowing that AstraZeneca is uncapped, the week of September the 6th, 285,000; September 13, 336,000 doses; September 20th, 566,000 doses; September 27th, 607,000 doses; October the 4th, 755,000 doses; October the 11th, 833,000 doses; and the last two weeks, almost 1.6 million doses subject to final confirmation. So that I think will hopefully put that to rest because those figures are being provided.

And in addition, I think the confirmed figures were provided over the course for the weeks of 6, 13, 20, 27 September, 4 October, 11 October, in granular detail to the Victorian Government with the 18 and 25, the figures that I've provided also provided to the Victorian Government.

So, General Frewen has provided those in writing to the Secretary of the Victorian Department earlier today, and I've also provided each of those weekly figures to the Victorian Minister.

So, I'm pleased. What does it mean in total? It means that Victoria is going to receive 1.7 million mRNA vaccines and uncapped AstraZeneca in September, and Victoria will receive approximately three million mRNA vaccines and uncapped AstraZeneca in October.



G’day Minister, are the figures you just quoted there cumulative? And you said mRNA, what's the breakdown with Pfizer there? Because the Premier this morning was adamant that the states having to ration Pfizer. Should they be doing that?

And I guess, can the Commonwealth give any assurances to Victoria that it could bring forward that second dose interval?


Well, look, it's a matter for each state and territory as to the way in which they dose. At general practice level, the advice remains three weeks, but the ATAGI advice is it can be three to six weeks.

And so, general practices are continuing to do that. So as I mentioned, you know, I have noticed a pattern on some of the difficult days, but I won't speak to that. I'll leave that to Victoria. But I can say that is-


What do you mean by that, Minister?


No, but I can say that our job is to provide hope and reassurance with facts.

And so what I've said is the mRNA, those are overwhelmingly Pfizer, but we're seeing 300,000 over the course of the coming two weeks, Moderna. And I can also say this that we have indicated to Victoria earlier today that the Victorian Government would receive an additional 32,000 mRNA next week, and they were made aware of that earlier today. So I'm delighted to announce that the Victorian Government is receiving an additional 32,000 Moderna vaccines at their request.

That has been gratefully received. I've received their response from Minister Foley in writing earlier today and his thanks for that. And that's 913,000 doses to the Victorian Government over the course of this week, next week, and the first two weeks of October. So clear, strong supplies.

And what's it translating to? The reality is record vaccinations around the country. Two million vaccinations in the last seven days. Record primary care doses today. There's never been a week which has had such high vaccination levels in Australia's history.



Hi, Minister Hunt. Thank you for this. Appreciate it.


That’s alright.


Just a couple of very quick questions about the latest treatment to arrive on our shores about a month ago, the sotrovimab. May I ask, how is that being received amongst, can you hear me?


Yes, yes.


How is that being received throughout Australian hospitals? What the feedback so far around a month in?


So we've had very promising results from the hospitals. This is about keeping vulnerable patients out of hospital and keeping them out of ICU. It's early days, but very promising.

And as a consequence of these results, I can announce that we are lifting our purchase of sotrovimab from 7700 units to 30,000 units. So we are lifting our purchase of sotrovimab from 7700 to 30,000 units.

It's a medicine which has to be determined by the clinicians in terms of the particular circumstances of a patient, but very promising results. Hence, we are quadrupling our orders of what's a breakthrough treatment.

It is a monoclonal antibody. Basically, it helps the body fight back against COVID. It won't work for everybody. It's not appropriate in every circumstance. It has to be administered in a hospital setting. But it will save lives, it is saving lives, and it will also help us achieve the national plan.

So it's over and above what was presumed in the national plan. And I think these treatments are very, very important.



Thanks, Minister. With regards to reaching the double dose to 80 per cent threshold. All states are on track to do so well in advance of Christmas, but there still seems to be some stubbornness or unwillingness to commit to opening state borders.

What assurances are you seeking or have you received that Australians will at least be able to travel freely domestically by Christmas?

And are you concerned that the home quarantine trials are not going as quickly as they could be, with places like Victoria still looking at it and Tasmania only doing domestic travel, home quarantine? Would you like that to be further along?


Firstly, in terms of home quarantine, I'm very heartened about the progress on that front. We're seeing across a number of states advances on home quarantine.

We use this already for people returning across state borders, and I welcome the announcements by Victoria today on home quarantine. I think that's a really important thing. We want every Victorian home as soon as possible.

And these new rules with regards to home quarantine are common sense, and I've been through three rounds of home quarantine myself. I've experienced six weeks of home quarantine. And it can be frustrating, but it does get people home and it keeps them safe and it helps to keep everybody else safe.

Of course, it has that same potential for international travel, and we're seeing heartening signs. I can't speak for all of the states and territories, but I can say we are seeing very heartening signs.

And we just keep working. That's been our motto through the whole of the pandemic. Every day brings new challenges, but we just keep working. And we're seeing with record numbers of vaccinations, two million in a week, more people being safe, getting closer to the national plan thresholds.

And then, when you see states such as New South Wales and Victoria adopting home quarantine for different steps, I think that's really important.

With regards to borders, the fact that we are so close to reaching the 80 per cent single dose threshold that will come within the next two weeks, we are on track to ensure that that means we then have 70 per cent double dose and 80 per cent double dose.

But the thing I am observing, is I think Australia will get well beyond the 80 per cent mark. Certainly, in New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria. But I also have hopes in other states and territories. And I mentioned earlier, but 21 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds in the first two weeks. That's a huge uptake.

And so all of that's in addition to the national plan, along with new treatments such as sotrovimab. So all of these things mean that we're ahead of schedule, and I hope that that means that everybody will be able to get home for Christmas.

It will be up to some of the Premiers, but it's a contract and a partnership with the people.



Thanks, Minister. On Monday, you explained you’d solved a problem with early October Pfizer supply by bringing forward some UK deal doses.




Could I please ask, why was that necessary? And although you've said today that mRNA volume is increasing week on week in October, is it growing at a slower rate than the states expected, because UK doses are plugging gaps in the Pfizer supply schedule in early October?


No, we're expecting our full supply from both Moderna and Pfizer over the course of October, and so we're always seeking the latest information.

One of the things that look, let's be honest, is the challenge you are always having to manage for international events. Let me give you an example. In the last 48 hours, because of the volcano in the Canary Islands, we've had to reschedule one of our flights from Europe.

We were able to do that; the doses are arriving. So we're always looking at bringing things forward or if there's a challenge, balancing out for that.

So at this stage, we're expecting 10 million mRNA, at least, in September, and 11 million mRNA in October. And I think I've just set out for you, for example, in Victoria, how you could see that continuous increase over the course of September and October.



But was one of the international events the company back loading the doses to the final weeks of October instead of earlier in October as hoped?


Look, I'll leave it to them to explain. What I set out on Monday, was that in terms of some shipments, they were moved back slightly. Other shipments we were able to move forward, problem resolved, notified. And that's part of our job.

We just do that quietly and I realise some may seek to try to create an issue for us. Our job as leaders is to provide that reassurance. When there's an issue that we need to address, we do. But where there's no issue, it's very important that we work together. We provide that calm, we provide that reassurance and above all else, we provide that hope.

And what we see is, because we were able - and this was a large part of my focus in the last few months to have the agreements to bring forward 3 million Pfizer, the- from the company, the agreements with Poland, the UK, the EU, over Moderna, and Singapore.

All of that put us in a very strong situation. It's allowed us to accelerate from a December finish to ensuring that by the end of October, everybody in Australia has access to two doses.

People will be at different stages on their own journey and I acknowledge that. But that means there'll be enough doses in the country by the end of October to ensure that everyone in Australia, everyone, at 100 per cent level, can have double doses.



Thanks, Minister. So it's not just Victoria that has raised concerns about Pfizer supplies, though, it's also New South Wales and the ACT at least have also said that they're concerned they're not going to get supplies as forecast in October.

Given Pfizer hasn't actually confirmed its deliveries for October. Is there some validity to those concerns?



All right. I will speak to Andrea in the room.


Minister, why won't the government pull backbencher George Christensen into line over the comments he made, calling for Victoria police officers to be arrested that were involved in the Melbourne protest? Do you support his comments?


I'm sorry, I haven't heard those. I think our police have been heroes. I support them, I back them, and I would reject any comments which are different to that.

I'd have to look at those particular ones. I apologise. I was not aware of them beforehand.

But let me say this about Victoria: I deeply and profoundly condemn the riots and especially any action which is directed against either police or health workers or the Shrine. Those are reprehensible actions at any time. They're even worse now.

I condemn the protests that are in breach of public health orders, as I did whether it was in June of last year, whether it's been in relation to anti-vax or this.

And I hope we can get everybody back to work who has been locked out as soon as possible. And there's a reason for that that if there are approximately 200,000 people that have been locked out, and those figures will be with the state. But let's say that's the number. We know that well over 100,000 of them will already have been vaccinated.

And given that we have vaccinated workers, and this was a measure to ensure vaccination, I think that pathway is there for a very rapid resumption as soon as possible.

Because this was a measure to ensure that workers were vaccinate, and in fact, they were allowed to stay on site until they were vaccinated or had a booking or showed an intention to be vaccinated.

Given that over 100,000 of those 200,000 - looking at population averages - will have been vaccinated, and we know that because of the mandate, many, many tradies and others had been getting vaccinated.

That's 100,000 people who could be working, who are vaccinated, who could be ready to safely work outside as we speak.

But more generally in terms of our police, these are absolute Australian heroes.

Alright, I’ll just finish with this.


Minister. Minister.


I’ll just finish with this, yes?


Sorry Minister, Ellie Walsh here.




May I just ask, those sotrovimab- no, no, it’s all good. Those sotrovimab extra doses that you’ve just announced – do we have any idea when they’re likely to arrive on our shores?


They'll arrive progressively over the coming months, and we’ll now work with the company on a schedule. But what we've seen with sotrovimab, I think, is an important indicator for today.

A real point of hope on a day where we've seen two million vaccinations. We've seen very promising results for the treatment. And we've seen breakthrough new devices literally putting the air into beautiful young newborns.

So there are great challenges. But you know what? We've got through it. We have the second lowest loss of life in the OECD, of 38 countries, in 2021. We'll continue to get through it. Australians have a great spirit.

And I think on some of these difficult days, we have to focus on our nurses and our doctors, our pathologists, our pharmacists, all of our health workers who've been upholding our hospitals, to thank our police for what they're doing, but to believe in Australia and to believe in that sense of hope and our better angels. And we're seeing challenges, but we're also seeing the very best of the country.

Thank you and take care.

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