Date published: 
30 March 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

The Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan, joins us now from Canberra. Alison McMillan, I just want to speak to you about the pace of the vaccination. There's a report on the front of The Courier Mail today, saying according to a survey by the AMA, 40 per cent of front-line public health workers - doctors, rather - in Queensland, still haven't got a first vaccination, five weeks after the vaccination program began. That's not good enough, is it?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Good morning, Maddie. The rollout has commenced, we know that and they're getting to all of the healthcare workers as quickly as they can. We can't do them all at once, and we know that some people may be on leave or they work shifts. So, we are getting to all of those healthcare workers and we'll continue to do that over the coming weeks.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

But isn't this to do with the way this rollout has actually been organised and taking place? I mean, if we look at those numbers, they should be the front-line. We're talking thousands of people here, not hundreds of thousands of people. Why are these people not vaccinated by now?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, I think, firstly, we need to remember also that the vaccine is voluntary. So, staff do have the choice-

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

[Talks over] Front-line health workers, surely there wouldn't be much hesitancy amongst that group?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

No, not a lot of hesitancy, but there are a lot of logistics about getting this vaccine, and Queensland Health are working hard to get this vaccine to all of the healthcare workers as quickly as they can.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

Talking about another vulnerable group, Norman Swan, who was on half an hour ago, reported to us that of nearly 3000 residents in aged care, 89,000 people have been vaccinated. That is a Commonwealth responsibility. Again, five weeks after this started, why have those residents in aged care, who are the most vulnerable in our society, not been vaccinated?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, as you've heard, supply has increased over the last few weeks, we continue to see an increase in the number of vaccines in aged care. There is a large population of aged care residents, and, as you say, 89,000 have been completed and we'll continue to see more and more done in the coming weeks. Particularly now that we've got the domestic supply as well of the vaccine rollout both to aged care residents and aged care staff.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

We were supposed to be at 4 million people by now. We're at half a million people. How is the timeline looking now? I mean, realistically, people who are at the end of the queue, can they expect to be vaccinated by the end of the year?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Maddie, we've still got that target. We're looking for everyone who wants to have the vaccine to have had their first dose by October. Again, we're seeing more supply coming on board. 500 more GP clinics commenced the program yesterday, so we'll continue to see more opportunities for people to get this vaccine in the coming months.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

Norman Swan raised another issue that's been raised with me by a number of people, healthcare workers and health economists, amongst others. Why is there not more partnership with the states, in terms of rolling out this vaccine so it's taken- there's less of a burden on the GPs? Because the GPs are-  they're doing their best. It is slow with them. Why are we not partnering with the states, who deliver health- front-line health services, and seeing those kind of mass vaccination clinics like we've seen in other countries?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, we are. It's not true to say we're not partnering with the states. We are.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

[Talks over] We are, but in a very, very small amount. The majority of vaccines for the general populace have been delivered by GPs.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, because the priority initially, if you recall, was direct- was aged care residents and healthcare workers. And so, we are delivering those vaccines to aged care residents and the states have been prioritised to get as much supply as possible, so they can vaccinate the healthcare workers. The community will, through 1B and through the subsequent stages, get access to the vaccine. But we have had to prioritise it with those that are most at risk, and now with these additional GP clinics coming on board and the increase in domestic supply, we'll see a continuing increase in the number of vaccines delivered to our community.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

So, do you have the figures on how many in 1A, that most essential, most vulnerable group, have been vaccinated?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

No, I don't have the numbers for each of the groups. We know the overall numbers and as you said earlier, we've seen more than half a million doses delivered since the commencement of the program.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

Do you expect a 3-day lockdown to make a difference in Brisbane?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

The lockdown in Brisbane, as you've just heard through your news reports, is essentially a way to hopefully be able to get to all of that contact tracing. There are huge numbers of venues now of concern, and so Queensland Health need to try to get that contact tracing. So, this small pause will help them enormously to do their job, which is what we want them to do.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

I’ve just- I mean, shouldn't Queensland Health really be able to cope with seven positive people and contact tracing at this stage?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

It's not just the seven positive people, it's the numbers of people that they have been in contact with. We've seen this in other jurisdictions over recent times, where a short lockdown has allowed just that breathing space, and allows them to do that such important contact tracing and get people who may need testing or who need to isolate, to do so quickly.

MADELEINE MORRIS:    

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan, thank you for joining us from Canberra.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Thank you, [indistinct] good morning.

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