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

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Let's get more now on the vaccine rollout, with the Prime Minister last night abandoning formally all targets. The Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, joins us now from Canberra. Professor Kelly, good morning to you.

PAUL KELLY:       

Good morning.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

So, we have gone from Australians being at the front of the queue, to all Australians being fully vaccinated by October, to Australians receiving one dose by October, to now, no targets being set at all. Can you understand why a lot of Australians are completely unsettled by all of this?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, I would say that we are continuing with our rollout - that's continuing to expand. We will have more than 4,000 GPs, GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal Controlled Centres vaccinating this week - so, that's quadrupled in the last month. We're continuing to work with the state and territories on their rollout; as well as our aged care rollout - which is coming close to conclusion. Disability is included in that 1A and 1B target. So we're going to that- that first step was always to look at covering our vulnerable and those most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus by the middle of the year, and that's continuing. And, of course, the new information, that safety information given to us last Thursday night, has led to a relook at the other plans for later in the year. But, on the same- on the other side, we've got the announcement of 20 million more Pfizer doses. So, we're putting that all into the mix. As we've always been throughout this entire pandemic, we're nimble, in relation to new information as it comes by. And sometimes you get these curve balls, and you just need to, need to deal with them. And that's what we're doing around the last three days.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Talks over] That's quite- it's quite. Yeah. Absolutely - I hear you. But it is quite the curve ball, right? And Australians - again, I'll ask the question - would've read the Prime Minister's statement on Facebook last night and pondered, well, we might not get vaccinated until well into next year.

PAUL KELLY:       

So, we have, have the aim of offering the vaccine as soon as possible to as many people as possible, and that remains the plan. I guess the, the Prime Minister's statement last night was, we'll just say, look just wait; we'll be working through that; and, there'll be more information about this as we go forward. But you know, that, that different advice does change the way we were planning to roll it out, and we just need some time to work through that.

But, in the meantime I was talking to one of my- a close friend of mine who is a rural GP, over the weekend, and he understands what this means. And what he'll say to his patients as they roll up - he's part of the AstraZeneca clinic in a rural area. I spoke, you know, last night with many people and many colleagues over the weekend, and including many friends over the age of 70 - they're all going ahead and getting that AstraZeneca; they understand what the message was about in terms of that balance between risk and benefit. My own uncle had the vaccine on Friday, with his wife and- the AstraZeneca vaccine, they're in that 1B group. So, so they will continue. People will, you know [indistinct]…

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Interrupts] So, I guess - excuse the interruption - I guess we wouldn't be in this situation if the Government, going back into next year did what a lot of other countries have done, and hedged their bets by trying to secure deals with other vaccine makers, including Moderna and Johnson & Johnson?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, we've now got - locked in, absolutely guaranteed - deals with Pfizer and with AstraZeneca for 170 million doses; if you include also the COVAX possibilities. But- Which is way more than we need for Australia and it will allow us to consider what we can do in our region. And that was the other announcement not many people are talking about, but very importantly that we are guaranteeing vaccines into, into our Pacific neighbours. So, we've got plenty of vaccine. Having extra, extra arrangements is not necessary. We've [indistinct] those by the end of the year - 40 million.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Interrupts] But a lot of those vaccines aren't here. We haven't got the 20 million extra Pfizer doses. I mean, the Prime Minister said they were secured. They're not really secured, are they? Until they arrive in this country?

PAUL KELLY:       

Look, the international supply is always uncertain. But, I think, if you look at what's happening in the rest of the world, I'm sure that Pfizer - and they've guaranteed to us they will have that extra 20 million and the rest of the current 20 million here by the end of the year. But, it will be back-ended at the end of year, it's true. The one thing we do have is that local supply of AstraZeneca. And remember, we also have the Novavax supply too. When that comes through, that will be available.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Just before you go, we had Mary-Louise McLaws, who you know is a prominent epidemiologist, a member of- an expert- a member of the WHO's expert advisory panel. She was on the show earlier, and she says it's her view that unless Australia ramps up daily vaccinations to 100 to 120,000 - the latest tally is 27,000 - unless we ramp up to as many as 120,000, it's going to take two years for all of Australia to be vaccinated. Is she on the money?

PAUL KELLY:       

No, she isn't. And so, I think if you really looked closely at the data of the rollout so far, this is not a straight line - it is an exponential curve. And we were really right- we are, right now, on the very large increase in the daily doses. Of course, we expect that that may well take a knock as people look and sort of think about what that announcement was last week. But, I would say a couple of things on that. Firstly, we've quadrupled the numbers of GPs that are rolling out vaccine; we've quadrupled the number of doses they are rolling out over the last few weeks. And even on Friday, we- Thursday and Friday were record days in terms of the GP rollout - so, that will continue. And anyone who's having- who wants to think about taking the vaccine, that are in those groups that we are prioritising at the moment, should continue to do that. Go and talk to your GP and consider the risk of benefit for you, in relation to this new information of this rare but serious clotting issue, and let's keep going. We need people - We need Australians to continue to roll up their arms and take the jab.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

To roll up and get injected. Paul Kelly, Chief Medical Officer. Thank you for joining us. We should point out to our viewers, we did ask the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to come on and answer questions - he was unavailable. But we appreciate you stumping up instead.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

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