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

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Let's go straight back to our top story, the changed vaccination advice for Australians, making Pfizer now the preferred vaccine for everyone under 60. We're joined now from Canberra by the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Paul Kelly.

Paul Kelly, good morning.

PAUL KELLY:       

Morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

We are getting lots of concerned notes this morning, according to our radio colleagues, talkback is ablaze with concerned, unsettled 50 somethings, 60 somethings. You've got quite the job, haven't you, trying to overcome the hesitancy, the increased hesitancy caused by this changed advice?

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah, it's another change and I understand people's confusion, perhaps, about that. But I wrote to all GPs yesterday to give them the updated advice. We acted very quickly on that advice from the experts. People should feel very confident about what we do know about this vaccine, which is firstly that it is very effective, it is mostly safe, and for older Australians, it is still available and the best one to get. I think the other important message today is any of the almost 4 million people who have had the first dose of AstraZeneca should not cancel their second dose. It's really important to get that full protection - you need two doses of AstraZeneca. And we know from the information from the UK, where they're ahead of us in terms of giving second doses, that it is a much, much lower rate of this rare but sometimes serious side effect in that second dose, if the first dose has worked out well. So that's my message today. If you're over 60, AstraZeneca is available, please do not cancel your appointment, carry on. The risk of this issue is much lower than the benefit of the vaccine. If you've had a first dose of AstraZeneca, whatever your age, make sure that you go along and have that conversation with your GP if you're concerned, but do not cancel your booking for the second dose. And for those that are now between the age of 40 and 59, Pfizer is available. So make that appointment and get that Pfizer jab.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. Now listen, I hear you, Paul Kelly. I've had my first AstraZeneca dose. I have no problems with getting the second one in a couple of months' time. But again, there are people out there who've had their first dose and will not, under any circumstances - wrongly based, I agree - get that second dose. Can they get a second dose of Pfizer?

PAUL KELLY:       

So the advice is very clear from the ATAGI group that we've been following all along - they're our experts in Australia on immunisation. Many of them are world experts, in fact. And it's very clear - we have tens of millions of people around the world have had two doses of AstraZeneca. We know that gives really good protection, and for most people it's very safe. There's this extremely rare but sometimes serious side effect which we need to and are doing really well in picking up here in Australia and treating correctly. But that is extremely low, the rate of that in the second dose. In fact, for younger Australians ...

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Interrupts] Okay. What I was asking you- excuse the interruption. So, no, the argument is hypothetically, if somebody's had a first dose of AstraZeneca and does not want to have a second dose, even despite your best persuasive efforts to change their minds, can they get their second dose as Pfizer, having had AZ as number one?

PAUL KELLY:       

So there's studies going on around the world about that so-called mix and match approach, and some countries have gone down that line. Our line at the moment is, if you've had a first dose of AstraZeneca, get a second one.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. And that's ruling out- is that the advice, is do not get a second dose of Pfizer if you've had the first dose of AstraZeneca?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, the AstraZeneca is the one that's available for those who've had a first dose.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. So no Pfizer dose as number two?

PAUL KELLY:       

No, not at the moment. Look, you know, as was found yesterday, if we get more advice about that on the basis of the information from trials that are happening right now in Europe and the UK and other places, then that advice may change. It's a difficult thing we've learnt in this pandemic. We need to keep track of the new advice as it comes along and act on it. We adapt, we're adapting again today.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Yeah. But as you'd understand, there are- again, understandably, perfectly understandably, lots of confused people out there, Paul Kelly.

PAUL KELLY:       

Yes, so I understand that and that's why we're doing a lot of media in the last 12 or so hours to try and put that explanation out. We'll be- as I said, I've written already to all GPs so they have that information. We've updated the information for patients directly, and so that will assist these changes. I wish I could be certain and say exactly what's going to happen in the coming months. I think the one thing I do know for certainty is that both the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer vaccines are very good at protecting, particularly older people, from severe disease. And that's why we're continuing on with our rollout.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Will it slow the vaccination rollout, at least in the few months ahead?

PAUL KELLY:       

So it's a challenge. There's another 2 million people now that have joined that availability of the Pfizer vaccine. We've been very clear all along that that external supply from outside Australia is limited for the time being. But we'll be increasing over the next couple of months and particularly towards the end of the year, where we'll have 40 million doses of Pfizer by the end of the year. They've promised us that. We'll be having Moderna coming as well in September and onwards towards the end of the year. The Novavax vaccine which we have pre-purchased, we still don't have a date for that one but that's certainly also on the horizon.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. So the percentage of Australians that are fully vaccinated is, correct me if I'm wrong, just under 4 per cent?

PAUL KELLY:       

So that's on the basis, of course, that we are now, just in the last week, at that point of having that second dose of AstraZeneca. So we do have good rates of at least first doses in over 70s, around 60 per cent- more than 60 per cent now. So that's going very well. Over 50s also doing very strongly, over 40 per cent first doses. And of course, there's a 12-week lag to get to the second dose of AstraZeneca. So that's tracking very well. This new information, we'll just have to see what that does in terms of those second doses. But as I said, do not cancel your booking please, have that conversation with your GP.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Yeah, that's always good advice. So if we've got a- say, 4 per cent, and I assume you agree it's roughly about that of fully vaccinated, two doses, people in Australia, the  eligible population being roughly 20 million. Really? Are we going to have the vaccination rollout completed as the Minister said, by the end of the year? That's a lot of ground to make up in, what, six months' time.

PAUL KELLY:       

So that's where we're tracking. My advice is that ...

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Talks over] Right. So you're confident of it being rolled out in full by December?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, what we've always said is first doses to anyone, will be available to anyone who decides to have that first dose and we'll following on quickly with the second dose. Look, there's no secret that actually most of the doses in that latter part of the year will be Pfizer, and then when Moderna comes online, so that makes a three or four-week gap, rather than a 12-week gap. So the difference between the first and second doses, the first and fully vaccinated, will be much shorter.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. Paul Kelly, really appreciate you coming on. Thanks for joining us this morning.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

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