Interview with Minister Butler and Michael Usher, Sunrise - 1 July 2022

Read the transcript of the interview with Minister Butler and Michael Usher, Sunrise on COVID vaccine for children under 5 and review of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment procurement.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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The Federal Health Minister has ordered a snap inquiry into Australia's COVID vaccine supplies and why the rollout was caught short at the height of the pandemic. It comes as Australia's youngest kids move one step closer to getting a jab. The TGA has given Pfizer the green light to apply for approval to use its vaccine on children from six months of age. And for more, we're joined by the Health Minister, Mark Butler now.


Minister, good morning to you. Let's talk about the vaccine first. Now, children as young as six months could be given a COVID vaccine after that green light approval. When do you expect that rollout? A lot of parents are interested in this.



These vaccines for our very young children under five years old are only just starting to roll out in the US right now. Really last week was the first jabs after that were given approval by their authorities.


Moderna has an under five vaccine that's already before our Therapeutic Goods Administration, our TGA, and I'd expect that to be a decision really in the coming few weeks. And then that will be referred to our advisory group on immunization to determine the way in which that should be rolled out to under-fives, if at all.

Pfizer’s running a little bit behind Moderna as you said, they've only just been given the green light yesterday to make an application. I'd expect that to be made in coming weeks as well. But if I have a message today, Michael, to parents of under-fives, it would be to consider getting your young child vaccinated for flu.

The flu vaccination rates for under-fives are running behind the usual average. And we know flu is a particularly virulent virus for under-five year olds. So, if you haven't yet got your kid, under five-year-old vaccinated for flu, consider doing it now because we're already seeing quite severe cases of flu to our youngest.



It's important, good message there. Let's talk about this inquiry, a snap inquiry that you've called. What are you searching for here? What are you trying to get out of what we haven't known publicly in terms of our COVID supplies at the peak of the pandemic?



We've inherited a range of arrangements that the former government put in place, particularly with Moderna and Pfizer, the big vaccine companies. And also in relation to these new antiviral treatments, tablets that people can take at home instead of going to hospital and having them intravenously.


We want to make sure that we are set up properly for the rest of this year and into next year. We are absolutely committed to being on the front foot of protecting Australians against a landscape that is changing. We're seeing new subvariants across the world coming into Australia as well that are different to the variants that we've been dealing with in those first waves earlier in 2022. They're showing high levels of reinfection, there are new vaccines now on the market that are targeting the Omicron variant in particular. So we want to make sure we have priority supplies of those as well as these new treatments.



Just, just very briefly, if I can cut in now. Are you asking for, are you looking for an audit of the supplies or are you looking for some impropriety in the way the deals have been done?



Oh, no, I don't suggest any impropriety. I just want to make sure that these deals will serve our interests through the rest of 2022 and into 2023, because this virus is changing. It is a race to keep ahead of the virus as it mutates.



Alright, good to clarify. Alright. Mark Butler, thanks for joining us on Sunrise.



Thanks, Michael.



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