Date published: 
7 June 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PAUL KELLY: Good afternoon everyone, Paul Kelly here in Canberra with the COVID-19 update. And I'm joined today for the weekly update from my colleague, Commodore Young, who will be going through in detail as he always does with the vaccine rollout. So just two things from me to start, before I hand over to Commodore Young. The first one is the situation epidemiologically. So we've had 16 new cases in Australia over the last 24 hours. Five of those overseas acquired in hotel quarantine, but also the 11 new cases in Victoria. And so, we always need to - sorry, for those on the phone could you just go on mute, please?

So, with those numbers, firstly, that's higher than we've seen over the last few days. But the story behind the numbers is important. So, of those 11, 9 of those are already in quarantine. They're known cases, known contacts of cases, and so they've already, during their infectious period, been isolated from the community. So that doesn't lead to any further risk. And so, that's a good thing. The other two have been associated with an aged care setting in Maidstone. So, I think, for Victorians still in lockdown, still as I renewed the hotspot definition on Friday, and so that is still in place during this week, that has led to, amongst other things, the triggering of that disaster payment that was announced after National Cabinet on Friday. And so, that is in place. For all you in Victoria, please take note of the Victorian directions. So, I know it's difficult but it's an important thing to get on top of this outbreak. And for anyone, of course, who is asked to get tested, who have been near anyone of those known places of contact, to get tested, and if you are symptomatic, of course, get tested. And that's the same throughout Australia, but particularly in Victoria this week.

Second of all, before I pass over the Commodore Young, just a reminder again, and I know everyone sees now the reason why we want that vaccine rollout to be really pushing ahead quickly. So that's happening, we had an expansion of the eligibility criteria on Friday, as the decision from National Cabinet. And so, many more people are now eligible in Australia to get vaccinated. I really encourage you, anyone who is in any of those groups that are now eligible to be vaccinated, to get out there, roll up your sleeve and get the jab. If you're in doubt, you can always go to health.gov.au, check that eligibility checker, we'll help to understand that you are eligible, and also there is the list of options as to where you could get that vaccination for which you are eligible, right now, and I encourage you to do that today. I'll pass you over to Commodore Young.

ERIC YOUNG: Thank you, Professor Kelly, and good afternoon everybody. Last week, more than 832,000 doses of vaccine were administered across the country, taking our total now to more than 5 million doses of vaccine administered. It took 47 days to get to our first million doses of vaccine administered, and just nine days to get to our most recent million doses of vaccine administered. For our next million, despite having a national public holiday and additional weekends, we'll none the less be focused on continuing to do what we can to increase the speed of the rate of vaccination. Within Victoria last week, 327,538 doses of vaccine were administered through a combination of Commonwealth and state clinics, taking the total now administered in Victoria to 1,462,197 doses of vaccine administered. Of note, that includes 59 per cent of those aged 70 and over, having now received at least one dose of vaccine, and 43 per cent of those aged 50 or over, having received at least one dose of vaccine. Apart from supporting existing vaccination sites, our focus at the moment is continuing to increase the rate of vaccination, but also doing what we can to support our fellow Australians in Victoria. The milestone of 5 million, though, provides us an opportunity to reflect on where we've come from, but also what we have left to do, and to also recognise and thank those across the supply chain who have made that milestone possible. And continue to surge as we speak today, to support those in need. That includes those producing the vaccines, Pfizer, CSL and AstraZeneca. Our distribution partners DHL and Linfox. Our vaccine workforce providers, ISOS, Sonic, HCA and Aspen Medical. The thousands of healthcare professionals across the country who, every single the day, continue to vaccinate those in need, and continue to support the COVID response. In addition, our counterparts both in the Commonwealth and states and territories that have continued to work together to support the rollout of the vaccine. In terms of operational update, I'll do that in three parts, focusing on the supply of the vaccine, the distribution of the vaccine, and the administration of the vaccine. In terms of supply, last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration cleared 298,350 doses of Pfizer vaccine, and 949,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. In the coming days, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will conduct sample testing and batch release of an additional 811,980 doses of Pfizer vaccine. 298,350 of which arrived on shore, last night. And another 500,000 expected to arrive on shore, on Wednesday evening. They will also conduct sample testing and batch release for approximately 230,000 doses of the on shore, CSL manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine. In terms of Victoria, based on what has been provided and what has been administered, there are approximately 320,000 doses of vaccine available in states hubs. And another 325,000 doses of vaccine available across the primary care network in Victoria.

In relation to the distribution of the vaccine, last week we distributed more than 920,000 doses of vaccine across the country, along with all the corresponding consumables. There were only two of those deliveries that were unable to be completed on Friday, both of which will be completed, one in Queensland, and one in Western Australia today. This week will be our biggest week. 1.1 million doses of vaccine will be distributed to more than 2.5 thousand locations across the country. This will include the 71,370 doses of Pfizer vaccine, and 41,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to state hubs. And another 280,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to primary care network across Victoria. In addition, and as the Minister announced yesterday, an additional 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be made available for Victoria. That will enable the vaccination for first and second doses of 50,000 Victorians, and will be distributed across three weeks, commencing from next week.

In terms of administration of the vaccine, last week 832,813 doses of vaccine were administered. Our biggest week by far. Taking our total now to 5,076,413 doses of vaccine administered. An analysis of this data indicates a significant increase in our weekday average, now at 136,000 doses per weekday, which is up 28,000 doses from the previous week. This included three successive days of records last week, and last Thursday, we had 143,659 doses recorded in a single day. Across the 4688 sites in the primary care network, they have increased their weekday average by approximately 14,000 per day, and that's predominantly on the back of an increasing and ongoing uptake in the 50 to 69 cohort. And of note, over the last four weeks, the weekly average of doses administered to that cohort has gone from 100,000 to 180,000 per week. The states and territories now have 746 sites where they're administering vaccines. And they have seen an increase in their weekday average by approximately 13,000 per day. Again, this is predominantly on the back of ongoing uptake in the 40 to 49 cohort. In the last five weeks, they have gone from 20,000 to 90,000 doses administered in a week. This week we've got additional channels opening up as well. This week, there are 13 Commonwealth vaccination centres which are now administering the Pfizer vaccine. And that will continue to grow across June. We also have 49 pharmacies which have now opened in Queensland. And again, we expect to see the number of pharmacies increase over the coming months.

In terms of our vaccine workforce providers, we continue to focus on those most at risk in our society, those older Australians in residential aged care facilities. And our focus now is on completing the 2565 residential aged care facilities, and we have four of those to go for a first dose visit. We've completed second dose visits on 2163 of those, or 84 per cent of residential aged care facilities. And we expect to conduct 290 of those this week. Within Victoria itself, of the 596 residential aged care facilities, all have had a first dose visit, and 457 of those have had a second dose visit, with another 107 expected this week. In addition to those formal visits, we've also continuing on with our roving clinics. These roving clinics will transit to residential aged care facilities who've already had a first dose and offer a vaccination to those residents who may not have chosen to have a vaccine in the first round. Wherever there is spare capacity with our workforce providers, we're now pivoting that towards those people with a disability in a residential setting. We've now had 7777 people with disability in a residential setting offered at least one dose of vaccine, and approximately 2300 of those are in Victoria.

This week, our focus is on implementing the direction from National Cabinet on Friday and ensuring that all newly eligible Australians know how and where to access a vaccine. And again, I'll point you to the eligibility checker at health.gov.au. We've now have more than 8 million visits. Today, though, as we do every single day, our focus is on ensuring the vaccines that we have are available across the country, where and when they're most needed to protect more Australians. Thank you.

PAUL KELLY: Thanks, Eric. So I'll go to questions in the room first.

QUESTION: First up, with the Delta variant cluster in Melbourne, I know that databases across the country are being checked. Have we found any matches or have all of them been checked and there's no matches?

PAUL KELLY: No matches. So it remains a mystery where that came from. Anyone who saw Professor Lewin speaking at the Victorian press conference on Saturday went through that in some detail about the issue of genomic analysis of our isolates here in Australia. We have the very best genomic analysis here in Australia, but there are sometimes technical reasons that not every positive case is able to be genomically analysed. So, I think this is a missing one. Chances are this came across our border. We know that that's almost- that's where it's come from. So this is almost certain that that's where this one has come from. Most people who have come across our borders have come through hotel quarantine, but we have no definite link to any particular breach. There was some speculation at some point that this might be due to people that have received some exemptions. For example, diplomats. We have checked that in great detail. I can say that most of the diplomats have come through here to the ACT, and I'm assured by my colleague, Dr Kerryn Coleman, who's the Chief Health Officer here. That there have been no positive cases in diplomats since April coming into the ACT. They've all received the standard number of tests that everyone who would be in hotel quarantine get.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a couple of quarantine questions, Professor? What sort of ongoing quarantine capacity do you think Australia will need going forward, particularly when international borders are reopened? And what sort of planning should be done for dedicated quarantine centres to take the load away from hotels? Just secondly, the Canadian COVID Advisory Panel there is advising people who are fully vaccinated shouldn't need to quarantine at all, returning to the country, and people who have one dose, if they test negative on arrival, don't need to quarantine. I just want to get your view on that and if you think Australia may move to those sort of arrangements some time.

PAUL KELLY: So thanks for the questions. The AHPPC that I chair, and we had another meeting today - we've been meeting daily through the Victorian outbreak - have been tasked specifically by National Cabinet to look at the issue of hotel quarantine, quarantine into the future, various types of quarantine. And there's very specific modelling that has been done to look at how that might play into the Australian situation. Recognising vaccination for example, testing prior to arrival for example, different countries that people might come from where the risk might be less than other countries. This is work we have embarked on for some time. I think just to be very clear though, Canada has a very different epidemiological situation to Australia in terms of the outbreak that they have had and continue to have. Similarly, in Europe and in the UK where these same conversations are happening around vaccine passports and the like. So those matters were considered at National Cabinet on Friday and discussed, and further work has been asked from the AHPPC to refine those things. So those are certainly on the table. But at this stage very clearly, we have our suppression strategy and no community transmission here in Australia. That's very different to Canada and most other countries in the world. And so any change to our quarantine system at the moment is not recommended. But in the future as we roll out the vaccine in Australia, other possibilities could be looked at.

QUESTION:  At what point through, Professor? Are we talking before the end of the year? Next year?

PAUL KELLY: Well, so, we have our aim of where we'll get to with the vaccine program, and that's been discussed many times. And so sometime in the future - I'm not going to put a date on it - these alternatives may be on the table, but that'll be a matter for the Government to decide.

In terms of what we'll need into the future of quarantine, so, there was the announcement, and it was tabled and is now public, the way that the Commonwealth has looked at the proposal from Victoria and the Prime Minister made that very clear to other on a bilateral basis that other states and territories that might be interested in having such a standalone quarantine facility. That would be the criteria that any proposal would be looked at. And so those approaches would be welcomed.

QUESTION:  If not a particular date, would there be a percentage of the population that we would need? Say, we need this many people vaccinated before changing to something like what Canada is doing?

PAUL KELLY: Well, as I said, the vaccination rollout in Australia is part of it, but it's also where people are coming from, what sort of things are happening before people come into the country, the vaccination status of travellers. All of that matter plays in. So, that's a matter for quite complex modelling. And so I think I'll leave it for that until we get the more detailed proposals from others or reports from the modelling I mean. Greg Brown's from The Australian on the line.

QUESTION:  Yes. Hello, Professor Kelly. You'd mentioned that- about the Victorian breakout, the Delta variant coming to Australia. You mentioned that most diplomats are coming to the ACT back from overseas. Has it been investigated whether the Delta leak came from a diplomat? And has has it been ruled out that it did come from a diplomat who was able to quarantine at home?

PAUL KELLY:  So as I said, from the ACT Chief Health Officer herself, she's assured us that every diplomat that's come in in the period where it would have been possible that that would have been the source has been negative, twice. So-

QUESTION:  [Interrupts] Are authorities- just in Victoria, though. So I get that that's the case in the ACT, but are authorities investigating whether a diplomat was the cause of the leak in Victoria?

PAUL KELLY: We're following every lead as to where this might have come from. There is not a single match anywhere on the database that we have of our genomics that have been done in Australia from any source that matches this particular variant. So the answer's no.

QUESTION: So it hasn't come from a diplomat?

PAUL KELLY: Well, I can- I can't say yes or no either way. There's no evidence that it has come from a diplomat from hotel quarantine, from Howard Springs, from anybody. We just don't have that information. Sophie Scott from the ABC.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. I just wanted to ask two quick things. One was, given how Victoria is tracking, how likely is it that Victoria will be able to lift restrictions when they're due to? That's the first question. And the second one, do you think the TGA will revisit the issue of vaccinating children in light of the Melbourne cases of COVID in a number of children?

PAUL KELLY: So, the first question first about lifting of restrictions in Victoria. Obviously, that's a decision for the Victorian Government. We are charting that on a daily basis in our discussions in AHPPC. And my colleague Brett Sutton and his colleagues in Victoria are obviously looking very closely at the risk and benefit of continuing with those restrictions. So that's a decision for them.

And sorry, the second question was about the children and TGA and vaccines. Yes. So, the TGA does have a proposal from Pfizer about- with all of the information that have gone to other regulators around the world for the 12- to 15-year age group, and so they are examining that information. Other regulators similar to the TGA have accepted that safety, efficacy, and quality proposal. And so it will be a matter for the TGA, but I would suspect that they would go along the same line. But timing of that, I'm unclear at the moment. That will be a TGA matter. Simon Love from Channel 10.

QUESTION:  Yeah, thank you very much, Professor. My first- I just got two questions. One, there are reports this morning that Victoria was being categorised as stockpiling vaccines basically to hang on to them for the second dose when the Commonwealth had actually been doing that. Is that actually occurring? Because Jeroen Weimar from Department Health Victoria seems to dispute that. Maybe it's one for the Navy commodore.

And the second question is, do you, Professor, have hope that with increased vaccination in Victoria that potentially the spread of coronavirus could be contained and that these sorts of measures may not be required in the future?

PAUL KELLY: Well, certainly in terms of vaccination rollout, that's obviously our aim is to get a point where we can- that will become a major, if not the only tool, that we can use to fight this vaccine. And the modelling we have so far, particularly with the variants we have, is that the vaccine in itself, even with a very high rollout, may still require us to consider other public health measures. But these sort of approaches that's happening in Victoria at the moment, we all hope that that will no longer be required into the future. In terms of the question about stocks on hand in Victoria, I might pass to Commodore Young.

ERIC YOUNG: Thanks, Simon. I think I'm on the record a number of times saying that we've been working in very close partnership with the states and territories. There's no evidence from our perspective that suggests that the states are stockpiling anything, and we've made it very clear from the outset there's no need for them to hold back second doses as they will be provided by us. Again, there's approximately 5400 sites across the country. There is a raft of different reasons why doses may not be administered in each of those sites. What we have seen in the last couple of weeks is the utilisation, particularly in Victoria, rise dramatically. And based on that, there's no evidence to suggest that they're holding back second doses.

PAUL KELLY: And Tom Minear from the Herald Sun.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking our questions. I just wanted to follow up actually on Simon's question there about second doses. There has been some mixed messaging from the Victorian Government. A Government spokesman said last week that they were retaining second doses. The Treasurer, Tim Pallas, has also previously spoken about how they were saving up stocks for second doses. Is there a communication issue there with the state, and are you confident that that's been resolved now, so they know that- I think it was something like 350,000 doses they had available as of yesterday. Are you confident they will now get through that stock rather than keeping them in any event [indistinct] second doses?

PAUL KELLY: So, I think Commodore Young's answered that question, but it was- has been raised in various fora about that. We have the contingency for the second doses in the Commonwealth supply. The reason? So that it doesn't get stuck in one state or another and can't be used for the national program to roll out nationally the vaccines to people, as Commodore Young always says at the end of his spiel on numbers that wherever it is needed most, it can be available. So, we have contingency. The states do not need to keep contingency. Just two more questions in the room and then we'll leave.

QUESTION: A few questions just on those vaccine numbers. You said that last week the TGA cleared, I think, just under 300,000 Pfizer doses and just under 950,000 AstraZeneca doses. But you said in the coming days you expect it to be about, I think, 230,000 AstraZeneca. It's a big drop. Is there a reason for that?

ERIC YOUNG: Yeah, the Minister has said over the last couple of weeks - explained that. So basically, CSL has been required to undertake some essential maintenance, which essentially a filter rig replacement, and that's had a requirement to drop about three batches from this week. So it's the one batch only from CSL this week.

QUESTION:  Are you confident we've got enough numbers with those third- those second doses of Pfizer coming up? They're very impressive numbers about vaccines that are coming in, but we're about to have second doses and more people wanting their first doses. Are we going to be able to meet that demand over the next couple of weeks?

ERIC YOUNG: So, short answer is yes. We've got a very talented allocations and planning team that sits up there and plans first and second doses and makes sure that we can provide those to the states and territories.

QUESTION: Just a final one for Professor Kelly. Can you explain why it seems to be that political leaders can pick and choose what vaccine they get - like the Queensland Premier today getting the Pfizer when it's not in her age cohort, I think the Prime Minister got Pfizer - when normal citizens can't?

PAUL KELLY: So for the Prime Minister, I can talk about him because I was there at the time. That was, as you recall, the very first doses. I think his was the third dose given in Australia. And so there was always the plan for the Prime Minister and myself to stand up and get the first doses that were available as- together with the Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer. And others have had the Astra to demonstrate, firstly, we're not asking anyone to do anything that we're not prepared to do, and secondly, that this is a safe and effective thing. And the reason we can move on with our lives in this time of COVID. In terms of the Queensland Premier, I understand that she's travelling overseas and- but I think for questions about her motivation, about why she was able to or decided to get Pfizer is really a question for the Queensland Premier.

QUESTION:  So people who are travelling overseas, whether it's for business or for- on compassionate grounds, are they able to get the Pfizer jab if they're over 50?

PAUL KELLY: So, we have our national program about who gets what and why. And so, as I said, questions about the Queensland Premier should be dealt with by the Queensland Premier.

QUESTION: But for average citizens who are over 50 in the same - similar situation who are travelling, what's their position?

PAUL KELLY: They will be getting AstraZeneca. OK, thank you very much.

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