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Minister Hunt's Press Conference in Melbourne on 26 September 2021 with an update on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the Brain Cancer Mission

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's Press Conference Melbourne on 26 September 2021 with an update on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the Brain Cancer Mission.

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

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Good Afternoon. (INAUDIBLE) Important part of our lives and the community. A particular congratulations to Neale Daniher. I know Neale very well through his work for motor neurone disease and (INAUDIBLE). So a great joy for the Daniher family.

Moreover, across Australia there’s very important calls for hope. What we now know is that we are on track for a record vaccination week. At this point, over two million vaccinations in the last seven days and we’ll have the figures tomorrow from this week, but importantly, what we see is that we have now already 219,000 vaccinations in the last 24 hours, we are at 26.66 million vaccinations all up.

26.66 million vaccinations all up, and very significantly, well over 75 per cent first vaccinations at 75.8 per cent for 16 and over, well over 50 per cent second vaccinations at 51.5 per cent vaccinations for 16 and over. That means, I think importantly, that we are at 15.6 million first doses, and less than 870,000 Australians to come forward to achieve the 80 per cent dose mark.

So less than 870,000 Australians needed to achieve the 80 per cent first dose mark. So we’re on track. We are making great progress, and as part of that, I think it's important to note that we’ve already had 340,000 12 to 15-year-olds come forward, over 27 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have been vaccinated, and that program is less than two weeks into its course of action. So to the kids, the teens and the parents who are coming forward, thank you very, very much.

In particular, and I think that this is heartening, we are seeing the states and territories move very closer to and beyond the 80 per cent mark. So already, we have states and territories that are above 85 per cent, other states in Victoria and Tasmania that are approaching it, and all of the states are doing an excellent job as are the territories.

Having said that, I especially want to note that we now have 93.8 per cent of over 70 that have had a first vaccination. So just to repeat that, 93.8 per cent of over 70s, our most vulnerable population is our most protected population, and indeed 99 per cent of our residential aged care workers have been vaccinated.

So then when we turn to supply, there is very important and heartening news I think on the supply side. Today, we will complete the shipment of one million doses of EU Moderna. That Moderna is out in the pharmacies, it’s being administered today.

If you haven’t been jabbed, go down to your pharmacy, get that first dose. It's a fantastic opportunity, for 12 plus, parents, for people of all ages to get that vaccine. Our pharmacists are working right around the clock.

In particular, as part of that, we also know that by the end of today, over 2.66 million Pfizer doses will have arrived from the UK with the balance to arrive before October starts. And so, that’s a huge source of supply, that’s a huge source of security.

And this week, as a consequence of that, over 2.8 million doses will be made available to Australians, including 2.4 million doses of mRNA vaccines, so there's the opportunity for everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

I’d say this as well, that in terms of the Brain Cancer Mission, and moving outside of the work of the vaccination program, I'm delighted to announce that under the Medical Research Future Fund Brain Cancer Mission, $12 million will be made available to fight glioblastoma.

Any form of brain cancer is a terrible diagnosis. We have already talked about the work of Neale Daniher with neurological or brain and motor function conditions with MND, brain cancer is another hideous disease.

Glioblastoma in particular has a less than five per cent five year survival rate. So today, in partnership with the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and the Minderoo Foundation, we will be making $12 million available for grants to help double survival rate for glioblastoma, to take it to a much higher level indeed than just a doubling.

And these are important grants that provide real hope, real care and real treatment. We have the equal highest five year cancer survival rate in the world, but we want to fight brain cancer in particular, and most especially glioblastoma with these additional funds.

So there’s significant signs of hope and we are on track for a record week of vaccinations. We are currently tracking at over two million vaccinations for the last seven days. I’d be delighted to take questions and I may start with Jade, if that’s alright please.


Thanks, Minister. When Australia reaches 80 per cent double vaccinations and we move into the Phase C of the national plan, what ongoing restrictions such as masks or gathering limits should Australians expect?

And how long do you think it will take for us to move from Phase C to D of the plan, where ongoing restrictions aren’t required?


Sure. So we’d like to see as rapid progress as possible. The national plan sets out 80 per cent double vaccination and we’re on track not just to reach that, but to beat that. To do that not just this calendar year, but potentially well earlier than that.

And that means that we can have reduced restrictions, return to our freedoms, the capacity to travel across state borders. And locally each state and territory will have to determine within the national plan, what are the public health and safety measures that they need.

But at the end of the day this is about families getting together, people being able to attend weddings and funerals, to attend births and to attend all of the great human events of life. So as many as possible, as quickly as possible, for our freedoms and our return to normal.



Thank you, Minister.  It seems Moderna has said that they are in chats with the Australian Government about manufacturing the vaccine here in Australia. Is that something that you support and are in conversations with them about?

And also, they are also looking at vaccinating children as young as two years old. Have you seen any of that research or are you in talks with them about bringing that here to Australia and vaccinating infants as young as two?


Sure. So the first thing is we’re making excellent progress on bringing mRNA manufacturing to Australia. We are working across a number of fronts but we are making excellent progress and I’m confident that we’ll be in a position to say more in the coming months about this, if not earlier.

So at this stage, excellent progress, mRNA manufacturing here in Australia. That’s our goal, that’s our intention and that is exactly what we're doing at the moment.

In relation to childhood vaccinations, we have already indicated that we are working with a range of partners and as they have clinical trial data, we are in a position to ensure that that goes before the medical regulator, the TGA.

And we are aware that Pfizer has already commenced a registration process in the US and I have written to and spoken with the Australian head of Pfizer to encourage them. We have also been dealing with Moderna. At this stage, they have not progressed beyond clinical trials.

But we have vaccine from both Moderna and Pfizer, which is ordered for this year and for next year. 60 million doses of Pfizer next year. 15 million doses of Moderna next year. And if that vaccine is approved as being safe and effective for children, we already have access to it and we will be able to supply to Australian families.



Thanks, Minister. The Prime Minister had said that he would like to give all Australians their lives back by Christmas. He said that is a gift that is within the power of Government. Just wondering how confident you are that Christmas might be a milestone where Australians lives do return to normal?

And I suppose how much do you think the State Premiers are aware of the fears of people who live interstate who might not be able to see their families for Christmas?


We’d like to see every Australian being able to connect with every other Australian for Christmas and by Christmas.

We’ll have enough vaccines for every Australian to be vaccinated before the end of October. And what that means is, as we have over 12 million mRNA vaccines, that’s Pfizer and Moderna, available during October, on top of the 26.66 million that have already been vaccinated, plus the AstraZeneca, there is ample vaccine available for everybody who seeks to be vaccinated to have had that opportunity before the end of October.

But we’ll keep going, of course. Because we want to keep encouraging people, to continue to give them that opportunity. What does that mean? That means that we can achieve not just the 80 per cent, but I think we’ll see in some states and territories well above the 80 per cent mark, over 85 per cent now in two states and territories, with others on that pathway.

And so all of that, all of that means that there should be no barriers to any Australian being able to travel. It will be up to some of the Premiers to follow the national plan that has been committed to, but I am confident that in the end both the level of vaccine protection and our common humanity will mean that Australians will be able to connect with every other Australian at the earliest possible opportunity.



Thanks, Minister. We’re obviously hearing a lot about state and territory plans to start easing restrictions once they hit some of those vaccine targets. But we know that the vaccines don't start working straightaway. There is about a two week lag from getting a second shot to having good immune coverage.

So do you want to see those restrictions start to ease as soon as those 80 per cent, 70 per cent targets are reached, or would you like to see there be a little bit of leeway when it comes to making sure people are protected?


So the Doherty Institute expressly considered this question in their modelling and their thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent took into account the time taken for vaccinations. And so the 70 and 80 per cent represent the point at which they believe it is safe to open.

So that included all assumptions in relation to the efficacy time. And so the trigger for those is actually the time at which those thresholds are achieved. Of course, the time at which we get to 80 per cent double dose is likely to see a higher level of first doses in any event, than just the 80 per cent.

These things aren't static. We’re already seeing 85 per cent in New South Wales and the ACT and those numbers are still continuing to climb. 93.8 per cent of our over 70s. So we have potential across the country to exceed the Doherty Institute targets, particularly take into account the 12 to 15-year-olds were not presumed to be part of that because they hadn’t been approved at this time.

Already 364,000, we’re on our way to be well passed half a million soon.

That will mean an extra million doses over and above the protections that were considered as the thresholds in the Doherty Institute modelling. So we’re on track to be more than a million doses ahead of the Doherty modelling targets.

So that’s the national plan. It’s a plan based in science. But what we see is that there are extra protections because of those additional vaccinations that will be in place.

So at the end of the day, I want to thank Australians. Two clear messages: please continue to stay safe, but please continue to come out and be vaccinated. If you haven’t been a part of the vaccination program or if you are due for your second vaccine, come out and help be part of a record week. Come out and help protect yourself, come out and help protect every other Australian.

Thank you very much.


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