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

ISKHANDAR RAZAK:     

Now let's get more on our top story with the AstraZeneca findings in Europe and find out what all of that means for here in Australia. We're joined now by Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, in Canberra. Professor Paul Kelly, thank you so much for your time. There is a lot to go in, but basically, we've heard this morning Australia's drug safety regulators have been asked to meet immediately after European regulators confirmed a possible link between AstraZeneca and rare blood clots. That meeting of regulators, what does that mean for us?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, firstly, this is not the first time that our regulators have met around this issue. It's been going for the last few weeks, but it's become much clearer over the last couple of days that the link between these extremely rare events, and we're talking about four per million, around that is being what's been observed in Europe, and the AstraZeneca vaccine is stronger, it is not an absolute link yet but it's certainly stronger signal there. And the TGA, as well as our ATAGI group, the Immunisation Advisory Group, have been watching very carefully, and indeed been involved in many of the meetings that have happened over the last few nights in Europe. So they're familiar and aware of the issue. They met in session yesterday for a long meeting to discuss and they will be discussing it again this morning. As always, safety has been our first priority, and the second component is that the Australian Government has always been led by the medical advice. And so, that will happen with this issue as well.

ISKHANDAR RAZAK:     

So could we see the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout change for Australians? In the UK, they're doing something different with people under the age of 30 using a different vaccine. Could we see that here?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, certainly there's been a range of responses across Europe. So the European regulator, the TGA equivalent, did not make a specific recommendation yesterday but did talk about people under the age of 60 and particularly, women as being at higher risk and there'll be a warning about that from the European regulator. But they didn't go further. The UK have made a decision for the 18- to 30-year-old age group as being advised to get an alternative if that is available. So those two recommendations will be brought to the table today and looked at in the Australian context. I think there's a couple of things we need to realise. Firstly, the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective and very safe for most people. There is this extremely rare event which appears to be associated with that particular vaccine in some people, four per million. The benefit of course is that the vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID illness, which can be severe, can lead to deaths, particularly in older people. So those issues will be brought to the table today as they were yesterday and has been over previous days by the ATAGI Group.

ISKHANDAR RAZAK:     

On the mass vaccinations happening in New South Wales, there is this hub that's been announced. Do we have any idea if this is happening elsewhere across the nation? Are other states planning mass vaccinations hubs?

PAUL KELLY:       

We're working hand-in-glove with state and territory governments on the vaccine rollout. There are many places of contact now where people can get their vaccination. The GP rollout is going extremely well, increasing now to several thousand points of contact in GP surgeries around Australia and GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations. And we have our in-reach program into aged care. We're well over- well progressed in the aged care space with the majority of aged care residents now having received their first dose, and many their second dose. The same in disability. And then the state and territories doing an extremely good job, particularly with the quarantine workers, they're pretty much all vaccinated now, as I understand it, across the whole nation, and then also the healthcare workforce. So that will continue to go. As the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday with Professor Murphy, our major issue at the moment is supply. We can't open mass vaccination centres if there is no supply to give vaccination through those hubs, but there's certainly options, yes.

ISKHANDAR RAZAK:     

[Talks over] Just on supply very quickly, why can't we just simply buy more of the Pfizer vaccine and get that into the supply networks?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well unfortunately, the international market for all pharmaceuticals, including vaccines- and including pandemic vaccines in the middle of a pandemic is not as simple as just going to the local Woolies or Coles and buying it off the shelf. So, of course we are looking and have continued to look for alternative supplies and for increasing supplies of all of the vaccines that are available and have been found to be effective and safe. Pfizer is one of those. We have 20 million doses coming before the end of the year and we will have those, but they're coming slowly. AstraZeneca, we have the locally-made supply. That's the way we can scale-up at the moment. Novavax will come in the second half of the year, assuming that they get through their final hurdles for regulation. And we continue to talk to other vaccine suppliers as well.

ISKHANDAR RAZAK:     

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, thank you so much.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

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