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

NATALIE BARR:   

Overnight, the European Medicines Agency said it has found a possible link between AstraZeneca and very rare cases of blood clots. Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, joins me from Canberra now. Morning to you. Are you concerned about the potential damage this could do to confidence in the vaccine process we have in Australia?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, as always, Nat, safety is our first priority with anything we do in the medical scheme and there's always that risk and benefit balance that we need to do. So, as you've mentioned in the promo there, there is new evidence now about this potential link. It is still potential but it's looking more likely between the AstraZeneca vaccine in certain people and this extremely rare blood clotting event. So people will hear that, of course, they will be concerned. But I think very importantly, we need to realise this is an extremely rare event and we will be looking for the advice, the specific advice from our medical expert panel, the ATAGI group, who are meeting again today. They met for several hours yesterday, and the TGA, our independent regulator, to look at what this means in the Australian context.

NATALIE BARR:   

Because people hear the words blood clots, they don't really hear the words rare, do they? And they don't necessarily think this is under 30s, they think everybody. So, this could be a big problem for the government, couldn't it?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, certainly, anything like this- you are quite right. People will hear the worst and they don't hear the other parts of it. But a couple of things, that risk and benefit is an important thing. Like with any medical procedure, there is nothing, really, that we do in life with that is without risk. So, we've got to balance that four in a million case possibility of blood clots, compared with what we know is a very effective way of preventing COVID illness, COVID ICU admission, COVID death, which we have seen millions and millions of people suffer from around the world. We have been very lucky in Australia, we have had fantastic public health response and response from the public to the measures we have put in place to protect us. But it's the vaccine which is going to be very important for us to get out of the pandemic, and so that benefit needs to be kept there as a possibility, and then look at those safety concerns. This is exactly what we do and what regulators do every day, is to balance those risk and benefits. And so, that's what the group will be doing today. And we will be advising the government accordingly.

NATALIE BARR:   

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are reporting this morning that more than 700,000 AstraZeneca doses were secretly flown from the UK to Australia instead from Europe as was initially thought. Can you confirm whether that was the case?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, look, we have been sourcing AstraZeneca vaccines from international sources. That's been a public knowledge and that's really a matter for AstraZeneca, the company with which we have a contract, to come through on that contract. Where they source those international doses, and we have ordered and do have under contract 3.8 million doses from overseas, it's up to them to source that from wherever they are. I'm not going to comment further on where they actually came from.

NATALIE BARR:   

But does it sound like a secret if it wasn't announced to the Australian public?

PAUL KELLY:       

These are AstraZeneca doses, they are the same quality and all of the other elements as the ones that are rolling out of the CSL factory in Melbourne. And so, really, it's irrelevant where they came from. They've gone through all of those quality, safety and efficacy checks and balances that we expect from any medical product, including vaccines and including the AstraZeneca vaccine.

NATALIE BARR:   

Paul Kelly, thanks for your time this morning.

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