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

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Authorities now are scrambling to shore up Australia's supply of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and ward off community hesitancy, after the nation's top immunisation experts recommended that under 60s not get the AstraZeneca jab, due to the possible risk of blood clots. Joining us now, Professor Paul Kelly. Is this a concern, Paul?

PAUL KELLY:       

Good morning, guys. So, yes. It's another change in the program, but, you know, we- we've had these before and we know what to do. And I wrote to all GP's in the country again to explain those issues. But, you know, we, we get these knocks and we carry on. And the important thing is we're following that medical advice to the letter, and sharing that with the Australian public immediately that we get it.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

So, Professor, do you have you got some data on, let's call it confidence levels, in the AstraZeneca jab?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, not specifically the AstraZeneca. But in vaccinations broadly, the latest data we've got is around about 70 per cent of people are very much wanting to get the vaccine as soon as they can. That's kept remarkably stable, actually, over the, over the last year. We've been, we've been checking that every couple of weeks or so. That obviously doesn't include the announcement yesterday, and you know, I understand people, people being worried about that. But the reality is, you know, we've got this new information, we need to know- we need to keep going. One thing that is certain is that older Australians, we know, are at much higher risk of getting severe COVID, and we'd really say, keep going, get that jab. And to younger Australians we now have, they now have the, the Pfizer availability for them - so, for [indistinct] 59 year olds.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

[Talks over] Yeah. yeah. And, Professor Paul, I'm reading this morning that there have been, so far, zero reports of any blood clotting issue with the second dose of AstraZeneca. Is that right?

PAUL KELLY:       

Not zero, but pretty damn close to zero - about 1.5 per million is what the information from the UK is, and most of those have not been in that severe range. So, we do know that it's way, way less common in that, in that group…

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

[Talks over] [Indistinct] Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

… compared with the new- you know, the latest data on the- you know, it's around three. So, people under the age of 60, three per 100,000 are, are [indistinct]…

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

[Talks over] And that's with the second shot, not the first? So, there's less risk, you're saying, with that second shot?

PAUL KELLY:       

Much, much, much less.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

There's, you know, it's almost- it's close to zero…

ROSS STEVENSON:          

[Talks over] Good.

PAUL KELLY:       

… [indistinct] but I can't say it's zero. And absolutely, you know, number one, number one message for today, anyone who's the first dose - and it's been close to four million Australians who have had that - please go ahead and have that second dose…

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Get your second. Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

We know it works, it's very effective, and it's, it's safe.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

So, Professor, will there be a campaign in order to encourage that second dose? Because I suspect that there are people who are going to be concerned.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah. We, we have that expectation, too. And definitely, you know, since I've been doing a lot of media in the last little while, it's been something I've said very strongly. And it's, it is, it is really very important, that, that second dose. We know, know that some, some people are talking about maybe waiting and getting a Pfizer dose. We don't have a lot of information about that being as effective or as safe - it might be in the future, we'll, we'll have to see. But we use the data we've got in front of us in this emerging pandemic. We've always been adapted, adapted to that information as it's come along. But the information we have at the moment is, if you get a first AstraZeneca, get a second one when it's due - don't cancel your appointment. Go and have a chat with your GP if you're worried about it. But please go ahead.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

Okay. So we've got to wait for advice on whether a cocktail's a good idea - so, right now we're saying, no, it isn't. So supply, so supply is clearly the critical issue because there's plenty of AstraZeneca, and yet there's a whole cohort now that it is recommended not to have AstraZeneca. So Pfizer supply becomes a big, a big problem, which is only going to slow down the vaccination rate. Is there any suggestion of getting in another? So there's Johnson & Johnson, and there's Moderna, and in fact, there are others around the world. So it's not just a binary game, presumably. Presumably we're out there trying to find other vaccinations.

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah. Well, we've, you know, we've got multiple contacts that we heard through- quite some time now, and the new one with Moderna recently. So it's a waiting game on, on Moderna coming, but we- they have promised us from September we'll start to get that supply - over 10 million doses. We have the Novavax as well, that's one we haven't talked about for a while because we're still waiting for them to come through with their, with their date of arrival and so forth - that looks a very promising vaccine, so there's another large number of those to come. Johnson & Johnson, we haven't gone ahead with. That's, that's one of a similar nature to AstraZeneca, so we're probably not going to go with that one. But there's certainly the Moderna, the Novavax, the Pfizer we'll have 40 million doses by the end of the year - they've absolutely promised that, and they, they will come through, they've been very- a very good supplier.

But what we've- what's happened yesterday is about another two, just over two million people that are, are now eligible in that 50 to 59 age group for the Pfizer. We are getting extra supplies to Pfizer in the coming couple of months. And so, you know, hook up with that. There will be an adjustment, we'll adapt to those new- that new information, and we'll carry on.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

And Professor, is the magic number 70 per cent of the population then leads to sort of no restrictions? Which is what happened in New York City.

PAUL KELLY:       

So look, I've been asked that a lot. There's no magic number for the, for the vaccine. We, we want as many jabs in arms as quickly as possible. The higher that number of people to get the jab, the closer we're going to be to, to going back to some sort of normality. [Indistinct] that's, that's good.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

[Talks over] Professor, I keep on, I keep on speculating with myself that if- that a fear campaign is required in order to speed up vaccination programmes. But I suppose without the supply, that would make no sense?

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah. Look our, our way of- It's still about persuasion and information, that's what we're using at the moment for our, for our campaign to the public. It's- And as you say, you know, once that supply starts to ramp up, then we'll really be able to consider different ways of communicating the message. But at the moment, it's just making sure people know which- what they're, what, what they're eligible for; where they can get it; how they can get it; and, that's the important part.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Yeah.

PAUL KELLY:       

So, just encourage everyone between the age of 40 and 59 to make that appointment to get Pfizer, and people over the age of 59 to carry on with their AstraZeneca. Anyone who's had a first dose of AstraZeneca of any age, make sure…

ROSS STEVENSON:          

You get your second.

PAUL KELLY:       

… you line up for the second.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Yes.

PAUL KELLY:       

That's the advice we've got from our experts.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

I'll be doing that for sure, Professor. thanks very much for coming on.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

So will I. Yeah. That's Professor Paul Kelly, busy man, Federal Chief Medical Officer.

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