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

DANICA DE GIORGIO:    

Well, joining me now live to discuss the latest in the vaccine rollout is Professor Paul Kelly, Australia's Chief Medical Officer. Professor, good morning, thank you for joining me.

PAUL KELLY:       

Good morning.

DANICA DE GIORGIO:    

Firstly, can you explain to us, why is the AstraZeneca jab safe for people over the age of 50, but not for under the age of 50?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, we've looked very carefully, and our expert medical advice, the ATAGI group, that's the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, have looked at the information on this extremely rare but, but often serious side effect.

A couple of things I'll say about that. It's not a normal clotting mechanism. This is a- this is actually a new disease. It's become very clear, or much clearer over the last couple of weeks that it's associated with vaccinations, specifically the AstraZeneca vaccination. There appears to be a trend for this to be a more common issue in younger people, and that would make sense if it's immunological mechanism - the immune system is stronger in younger people than older people. And really, it's that risk-benefit equation that's what went into that that cut-off.

Other countries have used exactly the same data, but have worked through their own local context and made a decision at other age cut- offs. But most of the European countries that have made similar decisions to us over the last couple of days have gone for somewhere between 50 and 60, some a bit older. The UK went for 30, that was the basis- on the basis of their local information and epidemiology of the disease and so forth. But we went for that 50, and that's where we believe, under that, the risk is unacceptable compared with the benefit of the vaccine, over that - that balance shifts.

DANICA DE GIORGIO:    

How far does this set our roll out back now? Is that October date unrealistic?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, this was addressed by the Prime Minister last night, and I'd say that all of these matters will be being discussed at National Cabinet this morning. I'll be in the room with the PM. and Professor Murphy and, and the premiers, their staff, and chief ministers where this will be talked through.

We need to really look at the logistics. We set out all of our plans on a particular path in relation to the availability, particularly that ramped up availability of locally, locally manufactured CSL produced AstraZeneca vaccine. That now can't be used, or preferred not to be used in that under 50 age group, so that will affect how we how we roll out that vaccine.

And so, that- these are- this is hot off the press. We've got that information and advice from the ATAGI group at seven o'clock last night - at 7.15 the Prime Minister, myself, the Health Minister and Professor Murphy stood up and talked to the nation about it. And that's, that's something we thought was very important, as soon as we had that information to, share that. But that meant that we now need to spend today working through what the implications are and make sure that we, we have a plan for that, for that changed circumstance.

DANICA DE GIORGIO:    

So, should Australia now look to other vaccines? Would you consider doing a deal, for example, with Moderna?

PAUL KELLY:       

Look, nothing's off the table. We've been continuing to talk with, with multiple companies that are producing vaccines around the world - particularly those that have completed their trials and have gone through the regulatory process in other countries. So, Moderna is one of those; Johnson & Johnson is one of those. Pfizer is one of our current suppliers and that has guaranteed that we'll have 20 million doses by the end of the year. They've also recently guaranteed that they will increase the rate at which that vaccine is coming, and so, we're looking forward to that in coming weeks. We continue to talk to them about future supplies.

And then- And the AstraZeneca, of course, is still - as according to that medical advice that we have so far - absolutely effective, absolutely safe for the over 50s. So, we'll continue to use that vaccine in the over 50s.

And another thing I would stress that anyone who has had a first dose of AstraZeneca should follow on with the second dose of that same vaccine and feel very confident with the safety in that regard.

DANICA DE GIORGIO:    

Okay. So, can you give us a date of when the Pfizer vaccine or additional supplies might arrive on Australian shores?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, we've been receiving Pfizer vaccines every week since late February, and they've, they've kept to their promise in relation to that. And they have recently assured us that in the coming few weeks they'll be increasing that amount on a weekly basis. So, the difficulty there has always been that they have a guaranteed 20 million by the end of the year on a regular, relatively small amount of doses per week. So, we can put that into the process of rolling it out, as we have done, keeping that contingency for the second dose, essentially. But it's different to the AstraZeneca, which is scaling up to be a much larger amount each week.

And so, that's the challenge we have today to work through that. We're continuing to talk very actively, including overnight with, with Pfizer in relation to, to the doses they could provide. But, but for the moment, it's 20 million by the end of the year, which is enough for 10 million of the Australian population to be vaccinated.

DANICA DE GIORGIO:

Okay, Professor Paul Kelly, we have to leave it there. Thank you for joining me this morning.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID20870, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fchief-medical-officer-paul-kellys-interview-on-sky-news-on-9-april-2021)

View contact