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

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:

The Prime Minister has announced he's fast-tracking the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine just a few days after labelling that very suggestion dangerous.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Joining us now is Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly in Canberra. Good morning to you, Professor. Good news, but three days ago the Prime Minister did say it would be dangerous to fast-track the rollout. So how come we're able to do it now?

PAUL KELLY:

So, it would be dangerous to fast-track the rollout if we were cutting any corners, and we're not cutting corners. This is just- the announcement really reflects the marvellous work that our regulator, the TGA, has done over the last few weeks to get the information that they need to make that decision. Our negotiations with Pfizer, the private company that will be providing the vaccine to get it here as quickly as possible, and our fantastic team of workers here in Canberra and across the nation in all states and territories to work through that logistics plan. So we're going as fast as possible, but not cutting any corners. Safety is our first priority.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:

It all, of course, hinges on that TGA approval. When do you expect that to happen for the Pfizer vaccine?

PAUL KELLY:

So the TGA approval will be done as quickly as possible, once they have all of the information from the company about the vaccine itself. They have been collecting information in what they call a rolling review for some months now. So normally what happens with the TGA, they get a big thick portfolio of papers, sometimes tens of thousands of pages. They've been collecting all of that information as it's become available, assessing it immediately, and those last bits of information will be coming in the next few days or weeks. So we expect, before the end of January, that we'll be able to make that decision, or we as in the TGA. Of course they're a completely independent regulator looking at this matter.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Of course. And would the AstraZeneca vaccine would then be approved shortly thereafter?

PAUL KELLY:

Correct. The AstraZeneca is another company, different type of vaccine. When that information comes, the same process will be followed. They're a little bit behind in terms of getting that final- those final pieces of data from their phase 3 trials, compared with the Pfizer vaccine. But we understand, talking to the company, that that's weeks rather than months. And so we're very confident that in February, that same process will be able to be followed for AstraZeneca. But Pfizer's our number one priority at the moment.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:

The first priority group, Professor, will receive the vaccine from one of about 50 hubs to be set up across the country. Where will they be? How will people access it?

PAUL KELLY:

Yes, so, the Pfizer vaccine, it's the first one off the rank. One of the issues with it, though, is logistically it's more challenging. It needs to be kept at minus 70, which is- we've never had a vaccine like that before. So there are some challenges there. That's the reason why we're starting in this kind of hub and spoke model, looking at our priority groups where they are most likely be first off. And so we'll start small and then build up from there. The actual locations, that's a very important and ongoing negotiation we're having with the states and territories in relation to that, but we really aim to spread that across the country and at least in every state and territory have at least one place where that would be possible to get. But as I say, the actual details will come over the next couple of weeks. We know that the current timetable is for mid to late February. So we've still got a few weeks to do that, and we met with the states and territories yesterday just to work through those issues.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Professor, we want to talk about this UK strain which is now in Brisbane. You're presenting the PM with a proposal on handling it as the National Cabinet meets today. What are you going to advise him?

PAUL KELLY:

So the AHPPC - the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee - myself, the Chief Health Officers, met yesterday. We've been meeting daily, actually, over the past month to discuss many things. The matters that will be before National Cabinet today were finalised, that advice. But that's advice, the National Cabinet is the decision-making body on these matters, working with the Prime Minister today, and I'll be in the room. I'll be advising, answering questions. But ultimately, it's the National Cabinet that makes those decisions, and as usual, there'll be a press conference after that. I'll be there with the Prime Minister.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:

Is there any consideration to closing the border to all UK arrivals?

PAUL KELLY:

So there'll be a range of considerations looking at the UK variant, but also matters in relation to air travel, both internationally and domestically. And so those matters will be discussed at Nat Cab and the decisions made will be the ones that will be announced.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS:

So an all-out boarder closure to the UK, South Africa, for example, could be on the agenda today?

PAUL KELLY:

I'm not going to go into the details. We've got the papers there, they've been finalised and circulated to the premiers overnight and the chief ministers. I'll be talking to the Prime Minister about that shortly. But then we'll be awaiting the decision of that group in a couple of hours.

DAVID CAMPBELL:

Well Professor Paul Kelly, some good news coming ahead for us, but we look forward to hearing more from you later on today. Thanks for your time.

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