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

BEN KNIGHT:        

Now, from Monday, Australians over the age of 50 - I'm pretty close to that myself - will be entitled to their COVID-19 vaccination. Will they take it? Well, we'll talk about that. But this is likely to happen on time in Western Australia, but New South Wales is telling over 50s that they will have to go to their GP because the state's mass vaccination hub is only going to be open from May 10. So, Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan is with us now from Canberra. Alison, thanks for joining us.

If you have a look at the graph of Australia's vaccination progress, it's running a bit flat and it's certainly running below what the target is- where it wants to be. What's your analysis?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Yeah, good morning, Ben. I think we gave some information yesterday. We reached 2 million vaccinations across the country yesterday. It took us 47 days to get to the first million, and only 19 days in fact to get to the second million. So, we are seeing an acceleration of this program. If you recall, we did have to make some changes to the program. We didn't get the supply we were expecting originally from overseas, and then as ATAGI changed its advice we needed to recalibrate that program. But we are seeing the majority of those vaccines now being delivered in GP clinics, which is very encouraging.

BEN KNIGHT:        

In the mass vaccination hubs however, they're still well below the capacity that they've been designed and built for. Are you expecting that they will reach capacity?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, they have significant capacity. But we are still constrained to some extent by supply. As we see more of the domestic AstraZeneca coming on stream, we will see a continuing increase in the delivery of these vaccines over the coming year. So, we will use and are grateful for all of the efforts and collaborations with all of the states and territories to deliver these vaccines to the community.

BEN KNIGHT:        

What we're also hearing and seeing reports of is that even with the limited numbers of vaccines that are available, you're getting people who aren't turning up for them, for whatever reason. Now, we don't know, especially if people have got to the point of making a booking, clearly that they're showing some interest in getting a vaccine but perhaps there might be a last-minute change of mind. We certainly know that vaccine hesitancy is an issue. Of course, now we have the news out of New South Wales that two people have died soon after getting the vaccine. Now, that is- no assumption is being made but certainly it is going to be investigated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. All of that feeds in. Are you concerned that we are dealing with vaccine hesitancy and that it's not declining?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Ben, we do acknowledge that people have vaccine hesitancy. That's not a surprise. Much of our program is designed to make sure that people have the best information available to them to make the right decision for them. I think it's really important that we don't jump to conclusions around these reports I'm hearing in the media around deaths. There is a very robust process in place, as you've suggested, with the TGA. More information will be gathered. If necessary, an expert group will be brought together to look at these deaths, and in time, we may make a determination. But really important not to jump to conclusions here. We have systems to look at these deaths, unfortunate as they are.

BEN KNIGHT:        

Yes, absolutely. But the news is the news, and the best way of probably countering that is through a public health information campaign or advertising campaign. I know there have been calls all through for the federal government to really start to communicate what's going on, all of the information on the vaccines. We haven't seen that yet, or at least not what people say is required to deal with this resistance and to counter that information in the community. Do we need one?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, Ben, we do have one. I've been a part of that program of advertising through a whole range of social media, television advertising and such. A wealth of information we provide to the community through our health.gov.au. And also as a result of seeing some misinformation, we also have some myth busting information. So, people can access that, really importantly, on the website and there is material across the country. So, I do suggest that we are running a very strong campaign and we will continue to do so.

BEN KNIGHT:        

Okay. We'll leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Alison McMillan, who is the Chief of Nursing and Midwifery.

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