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

NATALIE BARR:   

The Prime Minister has dumped Australia's COVID-19 vaccination timeline amid ongoing uncertainty about supplies. The Government isn't planning to set a new goal for administering first jabs. Scott Morrison saying in a statement, while we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.

Joining us now is Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. Thanks for your time this morning.

PAUL KELLY:       

You're welcome, Nat.

NATALIE BARR:   

So, the Prime Minister has said there are no plans to set new targets. Are you happy with that?

PAUL KELLY:       

Well, our plan is, it remains to give the vaccine to as many people in Australia as possible, as quickly as possible. And we're starting, as we've always have been very clear about, with our most vulnerable Australians and those at most risk of being exposed, and that part of the equation is going extremely well. In fact, most of that has not been affected by the safety announcement that came from our medical expert advice on Thursday.

So- but other parts of the program have been affected, there is no question about that. We need to think through now a different way of delivering the vaccine. But some- many of the plans will continue. For example, you know, by the end of this week we'll have over 4000 GPs, GP respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community control centres rolling out the vaccine, and that's allowing many more points of contact for people to have the options to go and talk to their general practitioner about any concerns they have in terms of safety.

NATALIE BARR:   

So, just trying to get our heads around why we are so far behind so many countries. There's a dozen countries that have vaccinated, 30, 40, 50, 80, 100 million people. We have done just over 1 million. Should we have gone for more vaccines, like the Opposition's saying? Because now we've really only got one, and that's in sort of dispute on who can have it.

PAUL KELLY:       

So firstly, we've got two. We've got a third one that will be coming in the second half of the year. By the end of this year, we will have- we have locked in already access to 170 million doses of vaccine, if you include also the COVAX facilities. So, by the end of the year, we'll will have plenty of supply. Supply at the moment is …

NATALIE BARR:   

[Interrupts] It's a long time away, though, isn't it?

PAUL KELLY:       

Yeah. But supply has been constrained, that's the second point. The third point I would say there is that unlike many other countries, we didn't have a need to rush into this. And so, let's look at what's happened in the last week. We have discovered, or this issue has been highlighted in countries that have had many more vaccines, AstraZeneca vaccine doses given.

And so, we've been able to look at that information, our staff at the TGA and our colleagues on the ATAGI group, the vaccine group, have been in many meetings overnight with European and UK colleagues learning from their experience and that's led to that safety announcement last week. Abundance of caution and just to be clear, those two vaccines are still available for those under 50, it's just that one of them is preferred and that people should talk to their GPs about their concerns.

So, I've spent some time with a friend of mine on the weekend who's a rural GP. I asked him what he would be doing today if someone under 50 turned up. He said, well we'd balance the risk and the benefits of the vaccine, as I do with many, with literally everything we do in medicine, there's always that risk-benefit analysis, and have that conversation. And if it turns out that AstraZeneca is best for that person, despite that safety concern, then inform the consent and we'd move on. And that's how it would be planning through general practice this week right around Australia.

NATALIE BARR:   

Yeah. Okay. Paul Kelly, we thank you for your time this morning.

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