Date published: 
8 January 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

The Government is aiming to have 4 million Australians vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of March. Joining us with more is Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly from Canberra. Morning to you. Now let's start with the phases of the immunisation, talk us through these priority groups.

PAUL KELLY:

Morning Nat. So, it's very important that we get to people that are at the highest risk of being exposed to the virus right now in Australia and those that are more likely to get severe disease. So when you think about that, who are the people at most risk? I'd say it's people working on our borders, in our quarantine system and so forth. So the people that are directly exposed to people coming from overseas. We have a global pandemic going on and that's our priority. But also our healthcare workers, our aged care workers, our disability care workers are likely to be exposed, or risk passing the virus on to people that might get more severe disease - our elderly, people with chronic disease, some disabled people. So they're our absolute priority, those two broad groups.

MATT DORAN:

Professor, isn't it wonderful thing to be talking about potentially having 4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March. I mean, if you looked back to a year ago, we would have taken that and then some. What have we learnt from watching the rollout in other countries? Is Australia well-prepared?

PAUL KELLY:

We are really well-prepared. We've had that advantage. So unlike the US, the UK, so many other countries that are really grappling with an enormous pandemic right now. I think yesterday was the second highest death toll in the world since the start of the pandemic. We've seen overwhelmed hospitals and so forth all around the world as well as many, many thousands of cases every day, and unfortunately, people dying. In Australia, that's a very different picture. That's given us the ability to wait until we get full approval from our regulator, the TGA, and to be absolutely certain about safety, that's the number one priority. But also to learn from other countries about the vaccination rollout. We absolutely are. We're talking to Israel today, actually, some very senior officials from there today because they've been one of the key standout countries [audio skip] getting large numbers of vaccines out to their population.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Will it work on this UK strain?

PAUL KELLY:

Yes. Absolutely it will. There's certainly no evidence at the moment that the UK strain or the one from South Africa, and any other strains at the moment, are resistant in any way to the vaccine. Of course, that's an emerging science and we'll be watching that very closely. The UK strain is definitely more transmissible. It's able to be passed from one person to the other more effectively than previous chains, but there's no evidence that it causes more severe disease and there's no evidence that it interferes with the vaccine at this stage.

MATT DORAN:

That is wonderful news, Professor. Good luck with the rollout. Thank you for joining us this morning.

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