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

SABRA LANE:        

And Australia's Chief Medical Officer is Professor Paul Kelly. Good morning and welcome.

PAUL KELLY:       

Morning, Sabra.

SABRA LANE:        

Public health officials who don't sit on the ATAGI advisory board tell me they're absolutely flabbergasted by this decision. What do you say to them?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, we've got our ATAGI group, which is a group of experts in vaccines and immunisation programs, and that's the expertise we've been following right throughout the vaccine rollout. And they're the ones who we're going to be continuing to listen to. They gave us new advice based on new data yesterday, and we've taken that advice and that will roll through to the program delivery.

SABRA LANE:        

Did you get the chance to question the ATAGI board on this? Australians are now - well, they're 10 times risk of, greater, of being killed by- in a car accident than dying from clots linked to this vaccine.

PAUL KELLY:       

So, this was a very difficult decision. And we- I can assure you and the Australian public that ATAGI did not take it lightly. They had that new advice, as you've mentioned in your promo there; 12 new cases in the last week, seven of those in that 50 to 59 age group. Very unfortunate deaths of the woman in her 50s, the week before. They were certainly influential from a personal point of view.

The trade-off is, as you know and Australians know, is we need to now adapt to make sure that we are able to protect our most vulnerable people. So, I'm very happy to hear that WA in particular are using that prioritisation approach and making sure that that now 40 to 59-year-olds are prioritised over younger people because we know that the risk of severe COVID, this is a certainty, the risk of severe COVID increases with age. So, we need to make sure that priority is covered.

SABRA LANE:        

Isn't the determination of therapeutic product usage actually the role of the TGA, what remit does ATAGI actually have.

PAUL KELLY:       

So, yes, that's correct. The TGA is our independent regulator of therapeutics, including vaccines, and they've been very much involved with providing the information. They look at each and every report that comes into them about events that happen after vaccination. And that was where that- those 12 new cases of this rare but sometimes very serious side effect was gained, that information, and it was passed on to ATAGI. They're the ones that can interpret that in terms of vaccine safety.

Safety has got to be our first priority. But then the next one is making sure that we do get that rollout going and that people, particularly, are confident to come back for their second dose of AstraZeneca. That's information we have from the UK, now over almost 20 million doses. The rate of this rare issue is much, much lower in that second dose. And so, people should feel confident to get their second dose.

SABRA LANE:        

Well, let's talk about that. Anti-vaxxers now don't need to actually say a thing. This decision could supercharge vaccine hesitancy. You've got 800,000 people who've had one shot of this vaccine who'll be reluctant now to have their second. How will you overcome that?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, it comes back to that risk-benefit equation, Sabra, that we talk about a lot. We know that- we know a lot about having two doses of AstraZeneca. There's been now, tens of millions of people around the world that have had that. We know …

SABRA LANE:        

[Interrupts] Sure. But this decision to will send a message- they will- it sends a message to those 800,000 people. How are you going to convince them they have to follow through and have the second shot?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, we'll keep talking to them about it. I've written to all GPs yesterday about this matter and making sure that they have all that information. We've updated our information directly to consumers as well and we'll be working through that over the coming weeks. It's a really important message. Those 850,000 people are only partially protected at the moment with one dose. We have a lot of information about two doses of AstraZeneca. We have very little information about a mix and match strategy.

And so, we know it's effective. We know it's mostly safe. But this rare event is there. People should be alert to that but not alarmed. And we know that in particular, in that second dose, that it's extremely rare and particularly rare actually in the UK data in younger people. So, those 850,000 people in the 50 to 59 age group and indeed, all of the 4 million people have had - almost 4 million people that have had an AstraZeneca first dose, should be lining up and continue to have that booking. Go and talk to your GP if you're worried, but please don't cancel it.

SABRA LANE:        

Alright. Our neighbours are going to be given this AstraZeneca vaccine. Are they right to think now - this is our regional neighbours - why should we accept this if Australia clearly thinks its second rate?

PAUL KELLY:       

So, we have not said it's second rate, Sabra. So, we will be continuing to share that with our Pacific neighbours and the AstraZeneca- AstraZeneca is absolutely one of the backbones of the global effort for this - to control this global pandemic, and it continues to be that risk-benefit equation. That is a very effective vaccine, it has this rare side effect. We know how to treat it, we know how to diagnose it, and we can share that information with the world as well. We're certainly leading in that respect. Those 60 cases we've had, 55 per cent of them have already gone home from hospital. And there's a fair proportion there that are- have the more mild form. So, we will certainly be sharing AstraZeneca with the rest of the world, as many other countries are.

SABRA LANE:        

Professor Paul Kelly, thanks for your time.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID23343, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fchief-medical-officer-professor-paul-kellys-interview-on-abc-radio-canberra-on-18-june-2021)

View contact