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

PAUL KELLY:       

Hi Ray. How are you going?

RAY HADLEY:       

G'day Professor. Look, first of all, before I start, I said this to Brad Hazzard last night in a private conversation - I don't know how you people stump up every day. I really don't. Particularly your colleagues at state level. But every day you're there, you're trying to guide us and do a job, and if people don't say thank you, I want to say on behalf of everyone, thank you for what you're doing. Thank you.

PAUL KELLY:       

That's very kind, Ray. Thank you.

RAY HADLEY:       

Now, this decision, erring on the side of caution and the Minister's just gone through the other countries where AstraZeneca is given to people under 60. But because, I guess, we've been, you know, conservative all the way through this; is this the reason we're being so conservative with this one in relation to the 60s, or the 50 to 59 year olds?

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah, look, it's the new data. You know, we've, as the Minister said, we've followed that medical advice and you know, in this case, I seek medical advice myself from the immunisation experts. And they have looked at the data in the last week, every week that our independent Therapeutic Goods Administration has looked at the data in terms of this rare, but sometimes serious side effect. There was an increase of 12 in the last week, seven of those were in that 50 to 59 age group. That made 60 altogether; they felt they needed to make that change. And so, we're guided by that. It's always that risk and benefit approach. So for that group, 50 to 59, the risk was starting to outweigh the benefit and so that's why they've moved to Pfizer. And there'll be a lot of people, you know, around 2 million that are now eligible for Pfizer in that 50 to 59 age group who should roll up and get that jab.

RAY HADLEY:       

Just in relation, if you're under 60, you're 50 to 59, you've had the AstraZeneca already. They tell me that in relation to the second jab, 12 weeks after the first, any incidence of clotting is greatly reduced for the second. Is that technically correct?

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah, that's absolutely correct. We don't have a lot of information here in Australia. We've been using the Australian data for that decision of course, as I just mentioned. But, we haven't had many second doses yet. The Minister, Brendan Murphy and a few others, it's a few thousand now; we haven't had any cases of this rare but sometimes serious side effect of the clotting in Australia. But in the UK, they've had almost 20 million doses, second doses now. And they've only found 1.5 per million people getting that particular issue, which is extremely rare. We need to put it in context, Ray. So, people over the age of 60 in Australia, that's Australian figures from last year, people over the age of 60 had a 14 per cent chance of dying of COVID, 14 per cent. That's 14,000 per 100,000.

RAY HADLEY:       

Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

So that's the benefit. You know, we need to have the vaccine for that benefit. We have to remember that. But in that younger age group, much lower death rate, much lower serious COVID, we know that. So it was important to really take that on board from the medical experts.

RAY HADLEY:       

Just one final thing, Professor Kelly. I'm getting a heap of enquiries from the medical sector as well, about looking at introducing these rapid antigen tests for frontline workers. I know they're not quite as accurate, but they tell me that between one minute and 15 minutes, you can tell whether someone's got a bad dose of COVID-19 and it's approved in the UK. Are we closer to approving that fast test at the moment with COVID here?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, there are some rapid antigen tests that have been approved by the TGA. I think the important point is they've been approved for symptomatic illness. So they're not really very good, at this stage, for finding people that have no symptoms. So that's an important point. We do have this fantastic laboratory system and the Minister mentioned that already, one of those key things that we improved last year was to increase our ability to do the PCR testing and the genomics testing. They're two really positive things we've introduced into Australia. They're our gold standards. We've got plenty of room for that. And most states, in fact, all states, they've signed up to getting those results as quickly as possible, all of them within 48 hours, it's usually within 24 hours. And most states, even when they've had this big uptick in New South Wales and Victoria in recent times, same day, you know, within hours. So I think for the moment we're sticking with that. We look at it and we ask our public health laboratory network experts to look at this every time. And, you know, if it improves or if there's a change, we're certainly open to that extra information, as we've been in the last 24 hours in relation to the vaccine.

RAY HADLEY:       

I think you've covered that. In other words, if you're asymptomatic, it's not much good. If you're showing symptoms, well, it is a bit better for you. So I understand that. I do appreciate your time. Thanks very much, Professor.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

RAY HADLEY:       

All the best to you. Professor Paul Kelly there, the Chief Medical Officer federally.

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