Date published: 
1 April 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

FRAN KELLY:       

The AMA wants an end to the war of words, which it warns could undermine public confidence in the roll-out. Professor, Michael Kidd, is the acting Chief Medical Officer at the moment. Michael Kidd, welcome back to Breakfast.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Thank you, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:       

It's a pretty unseemly brawl and it started off when the Federal Government claimed that New South Wales had administered just 50 per cent of the vaccines it'd been given. Minister David Littleproud says the State Government, quote: has left the doses in the rack, when they could have put them in people's arms. Is that figure correct and is that fair enough? Does New South Wales- is it hoarding half of its vaccine supplies?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Fran, I think it's really important to reemphasise how important the cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states and territories has been throughout Australia's response to the pandemic. And this is reinforced by Minister Greg Hunt, in his press conference yesterday. We have been working together to protect the people of Australia, we're working together in rolling out the vaccine programs right across the country as well and that's what we need to focus on.

FRAN KELLY:       

Something has broken down though, and I'm not just talking about trust. The state Health Minister Brad Hazzard says that tens of thousands of doses have either arrived too late or have arrived with no warning. He cites one dump of 45,000 vaccines was delivered with no notice right at the end of a week, when it was impossible to organise vaccination staff, book appointments and all the rest of it. What do you say to Brad Hazzard when he asks, how are we meant to vaccinate tens of thousands of people in a week, if the vaccines don't turn up until the week is over?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

So, clearly, we are dependent on the supply of vaccine in order to be able to distribute the vaccine right across Australia. The vaccine operations centre within the Commonwealth delivers the orders based on what is requested from the states and territories. And of course, at the same time, rolling out the orders to now over 1500 general practices right across the country. And of course, that will increase to over 4500 sites over the coming few weeks.

FRAN KELLY:       

Yeah, but something's gone awry. If the State Health Minister and the Premier backed him up on this, said we're getting our- basically, it's a kind of chaotic rollout. They're getting vaccinations aren't arriving when they were programed to, and then they're arriving three days later at the end of the week. Is something going awry there at the vaccination operation centre?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

No, I don't think so. But this is a very complex exercise-

FRAN KELLY:       

[Talks over] Well, how do we explain that?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, this is a very complex exercise and the vaccines are being, as they're received, are being distributed to sites right across the country. The most important thing is that people in Australia are receiving the vaccines. And as of yesterday, we had over 670,000 people who'd received at least the first dose of their vaccines. Over 100,000 people as of yesterday, who are residents in residential aged care facilities have received their doses of the vaccine. We now have over 72,000 doses being delivered each day. We, as I say, we all need to be working together on this, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:       

Well, we certainly do. I mean, the roll out is what's important. But, look, let me quote to you from The Australian newspaper today. It says that only one third of aged care and disability facilities nationwide have received the vaccine, even though the program has been under way there for more than a month. These residents are in the priority group, the 1A group. Why is inoculation taking so long when they're at the very front of the queue for good reason?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, actually, more than 50 per cent of residents of residential aged care facilities have received at least the first dose of their vaccine. The roll out has begun-

FRAN KELLY:       

[Talks over] Okay. The Aus figure had disability facilities in there too. But, okay, why only 50 per cent of aged care residents?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, because, again, this is a complex logistic exercise. We have many, many hundreds of facilities right across the country and these are being addressed sequentially right around the country. There are tens of thousands of Australians who are doing a fantastic job delivering these vaccines to the people of our country.

FRAN KELLY:       

I'm not trying to suggest they're not. What I'm suggesting is that there was- this was known, the planning was being done we were told. The rollout timetable was there. But it seems to be well behind schedule is the issue that we don't have enough vaccines? Do we need to produce more, or is it just a distribution, logistical exercise?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, as you know, the roll out timetable has been revised in line with the doses which we've been able to secure in Australia. Of course, we have been impacted by the hold up of shipments, of vaccines which are expected from overseas. Fortunately, as you know, we now have the CSL facility rolling out vaccines, which will help us to catch up over time. We're expecting to be vaccinating over 400,000 people a week over the next month and that number will rise as we get more and more supply.

FRAN KELLY:       

400,000 a week. What are we up at the moment? 72,000 a week?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

No, no, no.

FRAN KELLY:       

[Talks over] 72,000 a day? Right.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

We had 72,000 a day on Tuesday.

FRAN KELLY:       

So, you think we'll be at 400,000 a week, by when?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

We're anticipating that over the next few weeks.

FRAN KELLY:       

Okay. The Queensland- talking about supply, the Queensland Government's admitted holding back some of its Pfizer supplies, its vaccines, to ensure there's enough stock for people to receive their follow up dose because it takes, you know, two doses three weeks apart. Doesn't that indicate that the state's worried about the continuity of supply, regardless of the Commonwealth already setting aside vaccines as part of the second shot? Or is this just a misunderstanding?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Look, I can't provide speculation as to the rationale. You'd have to talk to the people in Queensland. But it is important the Commonwealth has been holding back the contingency for the Pfizer vaccine because of this dependency we have on overseas supplies coming in and making sure that we are able to deliver the second dose three weeks after the first dose. As you know, it's very important that people receive the two doses of their vaccines [indistinct] …

FRAN KELLY:       

[Interrupts] So, the states don't need to hold it? The Commonwealth's got that factored in and it should arrive in time?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

The states don't need to hold back the contingency amounts for their rollout to people in phase 1A. That contingency is being held by the Commonwealth.

FRAN KELLY:       

There's clearly problems writ large and they've caused a lot of damage in Queensland in particular now with the cancellation of Bluesfest, because the two clusters in Queensland have been linked to an unvaccinated doctor and nurse in a hospital.

How can we still have unvaccinated healthcare workers looking after COVID-19 patients? When will all clinicians be properly protected? Who's ensuring this?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Yes. So, obviously, the first case there with the doctor occurred within the first couple of weeks of vaccine- vaccines commencing for phase 1A. And certainly, people in phase 1A - so, these are people working on the front line with people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are likely to have a diagnosis of COVID-19, these people should all be- either have received doses of the vaccine by now, should certainly get it within the coming days. We are, of course, also rolling out now phase 1B, which includes everybody working in healthcare settings right across the country and that rollout is proceeding apace.

FRAN KELLY:       

Just back on the rollout numbers, Professor Kidd, I know, you know, back in January, the Prime Minister said we'd be at four million doses by today; we're not there. We missed that target by that 3.3 million people. There's a lot of catching up to do. There's a May deadline of six million people, which would mean we'd have to do 170,000 shots per day, on average basically, to get to that deadline. You're talking about 400,000 a week over the next several weeks. We're still going to be way behind. I mean, at this rate, Rwanda is rolling out more than Australia. We're still going to-we're unlikely to meet that May deadline of six million, are we?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

So, the deadlines- I can't speculate on either. That's- that's things we'll have to talk to people directly about. But the projection of four million was revised weeks ago and because it was very clear that we won't …

FRAN KELLY:       

[Interrupts] To 700,000?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

We weren't going to be able to reach- well, we are behind 3.2 million doses of AstraZeneca from overseas.

FRAN KELLY:       

Yeah. But we're also rolling out our own now. Are they all being distributed?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

We started- we started to rolling- we started to rollout. Absolutely. And as the batches are approved, then those doses are available and they're being distributed around the country.

FRAN KELLY:       

Right.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

But of course, many of them are being distributed to the over 1500 general practises right across the country, as well as to state and territory hubs.

FRAN KELLY:       

Right. So, that lag in the projection is all about those AstraZeneca vaccinations that didn't- couldn't arrive.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

That's the major contributing factor to any lag there. But as I say, the projections were revised once it was clear that we weren't going to be receiving those doses in a timely manner.

FRAN KELLY:       

Just finally, Michael Kidd, two locally acquired cases record in Queensland yesterday. If today sees another similar low rate of new infections, in your view, would that be enough to end the lockdown of greater Brisbane?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Look, clearly, this is going to be a decision for the Queensland Premier with advice from the Chief Health Officer in Queensland based on their knowledge of what's happening locally and the level of risk. I'm afraid we've got to wait and hear what they have to say this morning.

FRAN KELLY:       

All right. What about, you know, the Queensland outbreak? It forced the cancellation of Bluesfest in Byron Bay after a case of local transmission seen there yesterday. In your view as acting Chief Medical Officer, did Bluesfest have to go? Would that have been your advice?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, again, that is a decision for the health authorities locally. But I think it is really important to emphasise, Fran, this is our second Easter living with COVID-19; second Easter of the pandemic. Very important that people continue to stay safe, stay COVID safe over the Easter long weekend. Please don't become complacent and please follow the restrictions in your state and territory.

FRAN KELLY:       

Michael Kidd, thank you very much for joining us.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Thank you, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:       

Professor Michael Kidd is acting Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth.

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