Media event date: 
20 April 2021
Date published: 
21 April 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Good afternoon everybody. I’m joined by Commodore Eric Young, Royal Australian Navy, the Operations Co-ordinator from the Vaccine Operations Centre.

He joins a long history of people that have been assisting from the Australian Defence Forces with the vaccine rollout and with the pandemic response, including people such as Commodore Mark Hill, who helped here in Victoria with the Aged Care Response Centre, and thousands and thousands of Defence personnel who’ve assisted with contact tracing, with testing, with vaccination teams that have been out in particular parts of Australia as well as, of course, work on security, and in particular, in ensuring that we have had as much support across the nation.

So we thank our ADF personnel. And Commodore Young himself has a very distinguished career, having served at sea on a number of occasions, having served in the Middle East, having, in particular, been the Chief of Staff to Navy, and also having been decorated for his service. So Eric, thank you very much for joining us.

Today, I want to deal with the case update. Commodore Young will deal with the rollout primarily. And I'll also talk about National Cabinet and directions coming forward from yesterday.

Now, in terms of cases, no additional community cases again today. We're very fortunate in Australia. We have seen no lives lost. That makes 65 days this year with no cases and one life lost, sadly, throughout the course of the year.

Around the world – and the reason that I do this is because it puts into perspective the scale of the challenge. Around the world, over 704,000 cases and over 9500 lives lost. And sadly, we see these numbers every day. The world is experiencing a new wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

So, the pandemic not only continues, but it has reached a new wave, with case numbers frequently being above 700,000, and in the last week, we've seen some days of over 800,000 cases. In the year-to-date, there have been over 59 million cases and 1.2 million lives lost. An extraordinary figure.

With regards to tests, Australians keep coming forward, and I want to thank Australians for doing that. 16.4 million tests to date, and all of that is about ensuring we find early cases, and from those early cases, we are able to contact trace and to prevent the spread.

With regards to the rollout, Commodore Young will primarily provide the information, but 67,034 new vaccinations in the last 24 hours – a number that I think is very heartening – and 1.653 million vaccinations.

So by the end of today, we will have passed over 1.7 million vaccinations around Australia. That's a six-fold increase in total vaccinations in four weeks since the GP rollout or Phase 1B began.

So that acceleration, which was predicted, has occurred. And when you think of 1.7 million Australians having been vaccinated, that is an extraordinary achievement. More to come. More to do. And that's where National Cabinet comes in.

So National Cabinet obviously yesterday was briefed on safety and epidemiology issues both by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, and by Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer, Professor Allen Cheng, who is co-chair of ATAGI or the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, in addition, Commodore Young, as well as the team of Professor Brendan Murphy and Caroline Edwards, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Significantly, there was very strong consensus around three areas of joint partnership. Firstly, an agreed affirmation that the priority for Australia remains the current phases of Phase 1A and Phase 1B, focusing on the vulnerable Australians, completing that task.

We've had a challenge that was thrown at us with the changes to the preferred arrangements for under 50s that the medical experts recommended, but they've done that on the basis of safety. So every day, every day, there are new things we have to adapt to.

But significantly, that priority on making sure everybody in Phase 1A and 1B is vaccinated as early as possible, over 50s, under 50s, over 50s where AstraZeneca remains the preferred vaccine, and under 50s where Pfizer remains the preferred vaccine, to ensure that all of those occur.

The over 50s arrangements in 1A and 1B remain largely unchanged. The general population for over 70s and over 80s, that's occurring. That’s providing the bulk of the national vaccinations at the moment.

But also, for others in that category, to be able to go ahead and receive the AstraZeneca as they currently can and as is currently recommended. Then in relation to possible changes, what we have was an agreement in principle to be reaffirmed, either this Thursday or subsequently, through the National Cabinet process, of potentially bringing forward the general population access to AstraZeneca for over 50s. This is actually potentially bringing forward a part of the rollout and I think is a very important step.

Secondly, the potentially increased role for state and territory large vaccination clinics, building on what they have already got in place for those over 50s in the general population for AstraZeneca, but each state and territory will determine what they do, if they do it, and how they do it.

Many have in place those clinics. This would be opening up existing clinics for further groups within the population, the general over 50s, or they may choose to be setting up other clinics around their states or territories. Those are the two principle changes which were being looked at in the immediate short term.

And then the third point that came out of the National Cabinet was a strong, clear reaffirmation that general practices remain the principle means for vaccinating the over 50s. They've done an extraordinary job.

What we've seen is, as Karen Price said, the head of the RACGP, GPs are a mass vaccination program. They're just in a lot of places at a lot of times, and they're helping to vaccinate Australians.

So, we'll work our way through the program. We are seeing zero cases on most days in Australia against a world, which is in the grip of an ongoing pandemic. An incredible juxtaposition. And at the same time, reaching, by the end of today, 1.7 million Australians with vaccination.

On that, I'll invite Commodore Eric Young to provide details on the rollout, then we’ll open up to questions both over the phone and then in the room.

ERIC YOUNG:

Thank you, Minister. Firstly, I'm exceptionally humbled and honoured to be joining an amazing team at the Department of Health and specifically the vaccine taskforce, specifically for me joining a number of other Defence members in the Vaccine Operation Centre who are working in close partnership with both the states and the territories to make sure that we can safely, efficiently and effectively deliver the vaccines across Australia when they're needed.

I have to say, in the three weeks that I've been part of the Vaccine Operation Centre, I've been completely impressed with what I've seen. Not only the dedication and the hours, which far exceed what I would have expected, but also the collegiate nature in which all of the team is working together.

As you'd expect, the logistics effort required to rollout the vaccines is the largest that we have undertaken of a similar nature in the country.

And whilst it is complex, we have one very simple mission: to make sure that we can get the vaccines that we have available around the country when and where they're required to protect our most vulnerable Australians, and that's what we're focused on doing every single day.

To that end, we have three primary focuses at the moment. The first one is to continue supporting efforts and mechanisms and making sure that we get those doses around Australia. The second one is our forward planning to implement any of the operational changes that come as a result of the National Cabinet that the Minister spoke to. And the third one is, as you’d expect, to continue to refine and improve our processes, to make sure that we are getting better every single day and that we are able to sustainably support more than 5000 sites across Australia, that we can reach into over 2500 residential aged care facilities and over 6,000 residential disability facilities.

I’ve been asked to provide a regular operational update and I'd like to give my first one today. I'll cover in three elements. Firstly, dealing with supply. I'll then talk to distribution and then I'll talk to the administering of the vaccines.

In terms of supply, we continue to see our onshore reception of the Pfizer vaccine and we've continued to see our onshore production of the CSL manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine. Over the coming days, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will be conducting batch testing on approximately 173,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 468,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Over the coming months, we expect to see a steady increase in both the onshore production of AstraZeneca and the shipping of the Pfizer vaccines. In terms of the distribution of the vaccines, I think the first point to make around distribution is that we distribute every vaccine that is supplied to us with the exception of an appropriate contingency which the Minister has previously spoken to.

Again, I talked about the complexity of the distribution of the vaccines due to three primary elements. The first one is the temperature specific nature of the vaccines and again - I was talking to my family last night about it - it's two very, very different vaccines and the difference is being able to transport ice versus being able to transport cold water.

So, we're dealing with the ability to try and transport those over large distances over a very large country. Having said that, with the support of our partners, DHL and Linfox, we distributed nearly 600,000 doses of the vaccine across Australia last week, and this week we're on track to slightly increase that again.

In addition to those doses which are about 3,500 specific orders, we also undertook 3,500 orders of

consumables - those other elements required to make sure that we can administer the vaccines. And that included a large number of vaccines delivered over the weekend to make sure that we're ready to administer this week.

As I said, the focus and the distribution side over the coming weeks will be to continue to improve our processes, and importantly, improve our communication flows to make sure that we are effectively communicating to all of those sites receiving both the consumables and the doses of vaccine.

In terms of administration - again, the Minister talked to the increase over the last four weeks in the primary care sites. We now have over 4,500 primary care sites on board in addition to nearly 500 sites with the states and territories.

The primary care sites in particular again managed to vaccinate over 46,000 people yesterday, which is outstanding. And the total number as the Minister talked to was just over 67,000.

In parallel with the distribution that we're doing and the states and territories, our focus at the moment is on completing the just over 2,500 residential aged care facilities, of which we've completed 1,341 of those with a first dose and 749 with a second dose, having now visited over 2,000 homes for vaccinations.

Last week, we administered 330,000 doses of vaccine to, again, our most vulnerable Australians. And an analysis of the data over the weekend indicates strong ongoing uptake and use by the cohort of 50 and over and as you would expect, a reduction in the under 50 numbers, due primarily to a number of necessary cancellations based on the recent advice.

Based on the changes that may or may not come from National Cabinet this week, as I alluded to in my opening comments, our focus will be on ensuring we can operationalise any of those changes, and importantly, that means making sure that we communicate to all Australians, and they all have surety about how they can access a vaccine and which vaccine is the one that they'll need to access.

Again, I'll reinforce that critically yesterday we enabled over 67,000 vulnerable Australians to be vaccinated, and that remains our focus every day of the week. Thank you.

GREG HUNT:

I'll start if I may with those on the phone and then come to those in the room. Tamsin?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks Minister. Just a quick question, just about this case of the airport worker in New Zealand. How concerned are you about that? Have you received a briefing about that from your New Zealand counterpart?

And secondly today, the acting premier in Victoria announced that later this week, they're expecting to go to 100 per cent capacity at the footy in Victoria. What's your reaction to that?

GREG HUNT:

Firstly, let me say about the footy - I could not be happier. That's based on medical advice and what it does is it says that the MCG, for Anzac Day, or for the Melbourne-Richmond clash on Anzac Day eve - for which I'm hoping there may be a Richmond victory - could have up to 100,000 people. What a sign of Australia's achievements.

So, in the midst of a pandemic, when other countries are in lockdown, when other countries are facing cases, when other countries are suffering agonies, Australia, with all its challenges, is achieving a level of normality for which few others could put themselves in such a position. So, that's a testament to every Australian's work.

Secondly, with regards to New Zealand, I've been briefed by my counterpart, New Zealand Minister Chris Hipkins. I've also been briefed by the Chief Medical Officer of Australia.

The advice from the CMO accords with everything that the New Zealand Prime Minister, Prime Minister Ardern has said, and that is that this is a case of a fully vaccinated airport worker. That worker has been working in the hot zones, receiving planes from those areas overseas which have higher caseloads.

And they're on to this. We have full confidence in New Zealand's system. We've seen them deal with the inevitable outbreaks, and there will be other days when there are cases in Australia. We saw the outbreak recently in Queensland and New South Wales. Two states, and yet, we were able to deal with it.

So, we know how to deal with this. New Zealand knows how to deal with this. And the advice I had from the Chief Medical Officer who had been in a meeting with the medical expert panel, or Australian Health Protection Principal Committee today is they're watching New Zealand, but they have high confidence that New Zealand has this in train.

And of course, given that the worker has been vaccinated, that will play into how they assess the case and the transmission capability. But the worker has done everything right. The New Zealand system has picked up a case.

And we know that we have a highly infectious disease, but highly developed containment systems in both New Zealand and Australia.

Madura?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks Minister. I have a couple of questions, and one the Commodore as well if possible. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this morning said more data should be made available to the public regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine to help rebuild trust and confidence in the jab. What is your take on her comments?

And particularly what are the experts telling you right now on vaccine hesitancy and what they believe needs to be done?

Also, Minister, you mentioned that National Cabinet had made a strong, clear reaffirmation that GP’s remain the principle means for vaccinating people over 50. What other faith do you have in the plan in relation to pharmacists?

GREG HUNT:

There’s a room of other journalists here, Madura. Yep? It’s alright.

GREG HUNT:

Okay. Firstly, with regards to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the critical thing is there is confidence in it. The fact that we've seen National Cabinet reaffirm support.

The fact that they have done this on the base of the medical advice that we were briefed by the Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer and co-chair of ATAGI, Professor Allen Cheng, as well as Professor Paul Kelly, the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, shows that they're following the medical advice.

What's kept Australia in a position where we can open the MCG to 100,000 people potentially, the fact that we followed the medical advice. That's what we'll continue to do. That’s what, I think, has been one of the hallmarks of Australia. So, following that medical advice, I think, has been a critical element.

Secondly, in relation to the confidence. One, that we follow the medical advice. Two, that what we've had is a release to the public of all of the information that we've received, and we'll continue to do that.

An interesting example was within 15 minutes of getting the ATAGI advice, the Prime Minister and myself, Professor Murphy and Professor Kelly all stood up and spoke with the nation and had an honest conversation about here’s the latest advice, we want to make sure everybody is aware of it. And so, as we receive the advice, we will continue to share it. And I think that’s the important thing.

In terms of hesitancy, what we're finding, and again, when we see 330,000 people vaccinated in the last week, 67,000 in the last 24 hours, we're seeing that there's good uptake. There will be those, as Alison McMillian, the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer said on Sunday, who understandably think about this. And we have to acknowledge that’s important.

But we continue to encourage everybody to be vaccinated within the terms that are proposed, and we're now considering through National Cabinet actually bringing forwards the ability for those over 50 in the general population to begin the general vaccination rollout.

So, I think Australians should have confidence that the system that has kept Australia safe and allowed 100,000 people to go potential to the footy and whilst having zero cases here, it’s the same system that will protect them going forward.

With regards to pharmacies, we are looking at fast start options for rural areas, which may not be served by GPs, as well as, in particular, their role as we continue to expand through the large-scale parts of the vaccination program later on. But I've spoken with the Australian President and the Victorian President of the Guild in recent days.

If I may, Josh?

JOURNALIST:

Thank you, Minister. Good afternoon. On bringing forward vaccinations for over 50s, I'm sure many people will be happy about that. But there's still millions of people in phase 1A and 1B who have not been vaccinated yet.

I realise that since we formally agree all those additional caveats, but can you explain why it would work to open up to the next group when there are still people remaining in the first groups? Won't it make it harder for people in 1A and 1B to get an appointment?

GREG HUNT:

Well, what we see is- and I think that the states have been particularly strong in this, they have significant capacity in some of their AstraZeneca clinics. And so, they particularly want to focus on that additional capacity within their AstraZeneca clinics.

Some general practices are running at 100 per cent capacity, some may have more capacity. And so, what we would see is that the states and territories, as they wish, may wish to use their existing clinics or to open up new ones, but we'll note that for example, here in Victoria, Victoria said, look, just hold on to the AstraZeneca for a little while whilst we use up our existing doses and make them available elsewhere. They've now said that we're ready to do this.

So, they've got that capacity. And so, it's about using that additional capacity and maximising what we can. At the same time, we're also ensuring - and this is Eric's job - that everything we do have is distributed and made available, particularly those Pfizer doses for the under 50s and the residential aged care facilities.

Tom?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. A question for the Commodore if I may. Could you speak a little bit about the challenge of bringing forward the rollouts for the over 50s as we expect to be agreed on Thursday?

Won’t that require a dramatic increase in all parts of the rollout? Perhaps more than 100,000 doses being administered per day given the size of that population, and as Josh mentioned, the leftover people from the first phases.

Are you confident that that can happen? What kind of time frame, I mean, are you looking for that significant step up in the rollout?

ERIC YOUNG:

Thanks, Tom. Look, firstly, I won't speculate on what National Cabinet may or may not agree on this week and I'll leave the policy matters for the Minister to talk to. If I can talk generically about the phase.

JOURNALIST:

Sorry to interrupt. But they’ve agreed, they’ve agreed in principle already Commodore. So, if we're to understand that that is an agreement of the state and territory leaders and the Prime Minister, then it wouldn't be speculative, I don’t think.

ERIC YOUNG:

Thanks, Tom. Again, I’ll wait for National Cabinet on Thursday to confirm what we will do. In the meantime, what we are seeing and I think that we have seen since the beginning of the rollout is that each of the phases were designed to be operating in parallel.

So, there's a balance here to make sure that we are enabling GPs and clinics in other sites the freedom to be able to increase allocations to those doses as and when they're required. Absolutely, the priority and the focus remains on our Phase 1 populations and in this case, the over 70s.

GREG HUNT:

I'll just add one thing. I have a workshop with leaders within the medical community this afternoon, with the AMA, the College of GPs, the Rural Doctor's Association of Australia and others, and they're very supportive of having the option for individual practices as well as the supplementary work of the states.

And so, the belief is, and the advice that we’ve provided is that there's the capacity within the system using the existing 4500 primary care sites as well as existing state and the potential for new state and territory sites.

Claire? And then I’ll turn to the room.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. Just following from what you said last week about there's not necessarily a direct link between people being vaccinated and the borders reopening, today New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called that the biggest load of rubbish, suggesting that there is definitely scope to start opening borders or having certain kinds of travel as soon as people are vaccinated.

What do you make of that comment? Do you think that your original, sort of, hypothesis was over-cautious?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I don't see there's actually any disagreement here. The real point is that we will progressively open. And again, the British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty was making points about progressive opening and he, you might reflect on his comments in relation to what they saw with Chile and his particular language in that.

So, the common ground here is actually very common ground, and that is progressively opening as we see the safety. And my point was actually a very simple one, that at this very moment, as it was framed last week, at this very moment, if something were to have occurred in terms of total vaccination, you would want to see what is the impact on transmission.

What we've got to, I think, is a very clear, common, national position of progressive opening, as we see the safety. Greater vaccinations, more information about longevity and, indeed, more information about transmission.

So, our approach is to open as quickly and as is safely as is possible but subject to safety. And we want to continue to protect Australians. And then as we have greater vaccination, we have more data globally, because we do have that access to data globally, all of that allows us to make better and informed choices.

And we’re charting two things right now. Charting our vaccination program - 1.7 million by the end of today - and charting that reopening program, but always reopening in a way that's safe and consistent but done in partnership with the states.

Now, I'll come to those in the room.

Cheryl?

JOURNALIST:

Just back on the New Zealand situation, the worker who tested positive is reportedly fully vaccinated, how can that worker have been tested positive and what does that mean?

GREG HUNT:

Yeah. So, I think this is exactly the point which was under discussion. As we know, the world is learning about the transmission effects of the vaccines.

This was the point of the British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty when he was commenting on the fact of how the vaccination rollout in another country had gone, and the need to observe and learn.

And that was my point last week - nothing more, nothing less. And I'll let the New Zealand authorities talk through the case. But it's clear, as has been the case with the CDC in the US - I think the CDC gave data recently on people who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer and there are a percentage, a small percentage of those, that have contracted the virus.

What's not known is their capacity to re-transmit. And where there's a single case such as this, New Zealand is exceptionally well-placed to understand the viral load, to understand the re-transmission capability, to make sure that it's contained.

And so, the lesson from New Zealand is that there's not 100 per cent prevention of people contracting the disease but the evidence from around the world, through the clinical trials, as published in The Lancet, as identified by the WHO, is that for the vaccines that are being used in Australia, the figures identified have been 100 per cent prevention against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life.

Annika?

JOURNALIST:

I wanted to ask about the decision of the Commodore here. Why wasn’t that made early already before the vaccine rollout had begun? It a reaction to how difficult this has been? Why wasn't that in place when we were sort of trying to put in orders at the initial stage?

GREG HUNT:

Well, Defence has played a role throughout and different people play different roles. We've had Defence people within the National Incidence Centre and the Vaccine Operations Centre right from the start.

So people come on, people come off, as I mentioned Commodore Mark Hill who played an extraordinary role here in helping Victoria with the contact tracing and testing.

We draw on the whole country and the whole Government, and so it's Commodore Young's time now and we're very lucky to have him.

Paul?

JOURNALIST:

Do you recall a couple of weeks ago, Minister, there was a different set of facts between the Victorian Government on when vaccine batches were arriving? Your department claimed they were all on time but the Victorian Government claimed they were up to seven days late.

There seems to be a similar situation playing out with GPs who are saying they've not received their batches but the Federal Health Department is saying they have received their batches.

Do you understand what the discrepancy is there? Is there an issue with the tracking vaccine batches? Does that pose a problem between communication between DHL and Linfox and the federal department?

GREG HUNT:

So I'll turn to Commodore Young on one part of this. In relation to that particular state issue, I think we were able to provide the dates, times and reaffirm with electronic signatures the receipt of every vaccine on the day that we had said, and I think that was subsequently accepted by that particular state. As you well know, that was certainly the advice back to the department.

And then in relation to GPs, there's an extraordinary achievement that even though we've increased to 4500 sites, and those numbers have kept going up, by the way. I think we're close to the full complement of general practices and others that have looked to be part of it.

But as of last week, I think, every sight other than two for a total of 200 doses where that was being carried over to this week because of the particular reception needs of those sites, has been distributed.

And so, sometimes we'll hear particular stories and there is a tracking process in case. And I do remember when a particular newspaper contacted me and said these four sites have not received the vaccine. We then went to the Vaccine Operations Centre, we were able to procure the date, the time and the electronic signature.

It turned out that the people who were being interviewed on a Sunday were staff that had not been informed of that detail on each of those occasions.

But on the logistical process, I might invite Commodore Young.

ERIC YOUNG:

I think the Minister has covered it. The only thing I will say, and I guess it's the empathy towards the practices, while we delivered 600,000 doses, there was only two that were returned last week.

For those two practices, that's a big deal. And so, I think in my opening comments, I talked about making sure our third focus is continuing to improve our processes, continuing to improve our communication.

I think the key for me is to make sure the practices know where they can contact and they can contact, and we will be responsive when they contact us to get those orders done.

And DHL and Linfox have been exceptionally responsive in doing things over weekends or out of hours to make sure that we can get vaccines and consumables to those practices that need them.

JOURNALIST:

So there’s been no widespread kind of confusion from GP clinics saying we haven't received their batches and then coming to the Federal Government saying where are our batches?

ERIC YOUNG:

I think, and it’s been well reported, there was early confusion, I think, as we were ramping up rapidly from 1000 clinics to now over 4500 in terms of how they order, when they order.

What we've heard and seen over the last two weeks is that that seems to be settling down a lot and we're just not getting the volume of calls that we were in the early stages.

GREG HUNT:

Thank you. I would just note, that was actually primarily in New South Wales and Queensland during the course of the floods. So despite the floods, everything was delivered with the final being delivered on a Thursday in Taree.

So they went through the weather, they went through all of the challenges, safely, but were able to distribute it. But that did have an impact in the early days. Laurel?

JOURNALIST:

India is a concern as there’s a huge surge of cases over there with the new variant as well. How concerned are you and health authorities here about the situation in India?

And will there be a consideration, perhaps, of blocking travellers from India returning to Australia?

GREG HUNT:

So, of course, we already have a block on non-Australian nationals returning other than in exceptional cases.

Secondly, everybody who does come back from anywhere other than New Zealand has to be quarantined.

But, thirdly, the medical expert panel reviews all of the world developments, and if they believe that a change needs to be made, they'll recommend it to us and we will be accepting it.

So we don't have any advice to that effect. They are doing constant review. But of course I think we have, arguably, the best hotel quarantine system in the world. And it's constantly evolved. This pandemic means we constantly evolve.

But the fact that we are continuing to, we've had 65 days with zero cases indicates that that system is working not just well but exceptionally well, but every day we're looking at refinements.

And if there was a threat which could potentially cause breaches or overwhelm the system, we won't hesitate to take that advice and act.

Jonathan?

JOURNALIST:

Can I just follow-up. Just the first part of my question though, how concerned are you and health authorities about the situation in India?

GREG HUNT:

Look, we're concerned for the people of India. With potentially over 200,000 cases, that leads, down the track, there's a lag time, but that leads two or three weeks later to immense human tragedy.

So ours is, firstly, a human concern. But we also have a national security concern, a national safety concern.

We have a system that's designed for the worst of possible caseloads from around the world, whether it was the United States, or the UK, or France, or Italy, or Spain earlier.

Now we're seeing India and Brazil have very high levels of cases, as well as Eastern Europe. So that system is holding. That system is being strengthened. But if there are changes which are required, we'll just do them and we won't hesitate. Jonathan?

JOURNALIST:

Minister, there's a thousand athletes and support staff heading over to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. As far as you're aware, are states comfortable with them returning to take up those fairly unique spots in hotel quarantine?

And just on the Commodore’s numbers, AstraZeneca, is it true they’ve provided the Government with three million doses of the vaccine? If so, where are those doses? Because the numbers the Commodore provided, with the greatest respect, Commodore, does not add up to three million.

GREG HUNT:

Sure. So on the Olympics, I’ll leave it to the states and territories. But I think the principle is very clear.  We want to see our athletes go and we want to see them come home safely.

And if there’s an Olympics, I'm very confident that our athletes will be at the Olympics, they will be safely at the Olympics and they will return safely.

The AOC - the Australian Olympic Committee - is currently working on proposals to ensure that there's both the safe passage out and the safe passage in without imposing or without taking away on the places available for Australians.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean home quarantine for athletes and support staff?

GREG HUNT:

We'll wait for the AOC to develop those proposals, which will be primarily done in conjunction with the states and territories.

But the really simple principle is we want to see them go, we want to see them go safely, we want to see them come back, but they have to come back safely, and we want to make sure that that's not at the expense, there are many ways that this could be done, not at the expense of other Australians returning.

Then just in terms of the numbers, that's correct, but what is also in addition with regards to the supply to Australians, so the figures yesterday showed a total pool of distributed elements of three million. In addition to that, the Commodore has already set out the 600,000 currently being in transit and distributed for this week, and then there's contingency on top of that.

I think the article today didn't note the contingency and didn't note the additional items which are the sum the full amount.

JOURNALIST:

But that 600,000 though, is that combined AstraZeneca and Pfizer? I'm just trying to get a clear indication for the Australian public on how many Pfizer doses are we getting into the country a week and how many AstraZeneca doses are going out the door each week?

GREG HUNT:

Well this week we're expecting 600,000, as I’ve said.

JOURNALIST:

Combined?

GREG HUNT:

Combined, that's the combined figure. And of course with Pfizer, you have to immediately make sure it’s one for one. Because there is a three-week turnaround between first and second doses, if there were any breach in the international supply chain, which is something we have to prepare for, we can't presume that more will come later.

So if we distribute one dose, we immediately provision one dose. That's the only responsible thing to do. And then we're also provisioning for AstraZeneca but we do have a bit more flexibility because we have onshore production.

But basically the answer is very simple. The numbers provided yesterday, three million distributed. The numbers which Commodore Young has provided today, another 600,000 this week, and then the balance being contingency for the nation.

JOURNALIST:

So that's three million combined Pfizer and AstraZeneca that they’ve delivered. So where's the remainder of the three million AstraZeneca?

GREG HUNT:

Well, no, that's the combination of things. When you say there's three million, plus there's another 600,000 going out this week, plus there's contingency which sums to the.

JOURNALIST:

What’s the stock numbers in contingency?

GREG HUNT:

800,000. But that sums up- the principle, I think, here is very clear. Everything we receive is cleared on the same day by the TGA and then the distribution begins right around the nation on that same day. And then the remainder is contingency for second doses, which is something that we have to do.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the consent educational video, otherwise known as the milkshake video, it’s been described by the Victorian Minister and New South Wales Minister as woeful, cringe-worthy, missing the point. Have you seen it and what do you think of it?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I'll let others make their judgements. We'll refer that to the experts in communication. I'm not going to draw a judgement on it. I'll leave others to do that. We're always revising

JOURNALIST:

Can you tell us who made it, how much it cost?

GREG HUNT:

No, I'd have to take that under advice.

But the answer is, there are many ways to communicate with Australians. What really matters is that people know that the vaccines can save their lives, they can protect their lives and they can open up the opportunities for Australians to travel.

And to everybody who might be attending the MCG, a full MCG this weekend, have a fantastic time, enjoy the footy, but revel in the fact that Australia is in an almost unique and a deeply privileged position in a world which otherwise is facing a pandemic.

Thanks very much.

Ministers: