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

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Vaccine questions continue about the rollout for us. The Prime Minister said yesterday that 3 million doses were locked, but the EU overnight has said that's not right. We invited the Prime Minister and the Health Minister onto the program this morning, but they suggested the best person to talk to is Australia's Chief Nurse, Alison McMillan. Alison, good morning.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Good morning, Rebecca.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Have you had your vaccine?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

I have, indeed, yes.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Which one did you get?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

I got the Pfizer vaccine.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. Alright, let's start with the Pfizer, because that is the one that frontline health workers, border workers are getting. And I just want to run through a couple of sort of short specific, questions. How many doses of the vaccine has Australia ordered?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Okay. Rebecca, we're not releasing that information publicly. They are part of delicate negotiations that continue between our government and Pfizer. And so, as you can imagine, that's commercial in confidence. So be reassured, we have ordered as many as we can acquire. But also, the second line we have is the AstraZeneca bought from overseas and of course now being produced in Australia.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. I just want to stick with Pfizer, first of all. All right. So you can't say how many Australia's ordered because that's commercial in confidence. Where are the Pfizer vaccines coming from?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, the vaccine, the Pfizer vaccines are coming from European factories.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. Can you say how many Pfizer doses have arrived in Australia?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Again, no. No, we're not releasing that information. Not because we're keeping secrets, but just because, again, it's a commercial agreement and it's important that we protect that so we can maintain our supply.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Do the state health authorities know how many are here?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

They know how many they're getting. They're now a part of the network of distribution that we have across the country, around the number of both Pfizer vaccines and AstraZeneca. And as you said, the Pfizer vaccines are going to frontline health care workers, those working in hotel quarantine and aged care residents.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Yes. Okay. So the states know that. But the Queensland Premier has expressed concern about confidence in supply. Can you say how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine Queensland is getting on a daily or weekly basis?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

No, Rebecca, I can't. It really depends to some context as well in how many they order. So they will anticipate how many vaccines they're going to administer in the coming days. As you will recall, Pfizer has a very delicate status and needs to be kept in very detailed cold chain. So they put an order in and then they get provided with their supplies through a very detailed network supply chain and delivery system.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Right. Well, that's really interesting. So you're saying if Queensland puts in an order, that's the basis of the strategy for the Pfizer vaccine rollout.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, they put in an order, but always the amount we can provide is based on how much supply we have. So they ...

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

[Talks over] Okay then. So if Queensland puts in an order, are you able to provide what Queensland's asking for?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We can provide whatever we have available at that point in time. The states and territories and the Commonwealth meet very, very regularly to discuss and negotiate what the range of needs are around vaccine supply in the coming days. And that's a continuous discussion between what is available and what can be- what they ask is.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Our Premier, Deputy Premier and Health Minister seem to be suggesting that they're not getting what they're asking for. Is that correct?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, I can't speak to that. I don't know what they're asking for. I'm not part of that discussion. But I know that we are providing everything that we have available at this point in time, noting, of course, that we didn't get the supply we had anticipated.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. Alison McMillan, Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer on ABC Radio Brisbane. Let's go to AstraZeneca. That's the vaccine the majority of Australians will get. How many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were ordered from Europe?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Again, the same answer, Rebecca, is that because of the commercial arrangement, we're not discussing the details of those contracts with AstraZeneca. What I can tell you is, as we've made clear, so far, 830,000 AstraZeneca have been produced by the Melbourne factory and we're looking to anticipate more of that and the rolling out in the coming weeks as more is checked- batch checked through TGA and is released into our network.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. But I just want to stay with the international order for a moment, because we do know that 250,000 doses were blocked by Italy. The Prime Minister has suggested that another 3 million doses - not clear whether it's AstraZeneca or Pfizer or a combination, were blocked by the EU. The EU overnight has come out and said that's incorrect. Is there an order pending on AstraZeneca vaccines internationally?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We had anticipated we would get more supply than we've actually received. Again, this is a negotiation that happens at a ministerial level and these negotiations are continuing. We have asked particularly for the release of 1 million for the purposes of humanitarian use in Papua New Guinea. And we know what's going on there and we're keen to help them. So I'm aware that that request has been made and we're still waiting for and anticipating a response to that request.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

What is the strategy for determining the AstraZeneca vaccine distribution to states and territories?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Yep. So as you recall, we had a program of rollout, so we've rolled out 1A and 1B with a focus on the most vulnerable. We see moving into 2A and 2B by mid-year, and that- the distribution is based on the available supply across the country.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. Available supply rather than population?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Population, and [indistinct]. It's not population based because it really depends on the who in that jurisdiction and who falls into that category of 1A and 1B.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Alison, we've only got a minute before the news is upon us. Just very briefly, before you go, is the next goal for Australian vaccinations 6 million first jabs by the 10th of May?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We're aiming to complete 1B, which is the 6 million. It will depend upon supply and we're continuing to work to reach that target as quickly as we can ...

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Are you concerned about supply?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

No, I'm not concerned about supply. And I think that we need to reassure the population that we're doing everything we can to maintain supply, particularly we're in a great advantage in Australia because we have that domestic production ramping up in Melbourne that's going to give us security of supply.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Will you then consider mass vaccination sites?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

I think we've always been part of our consideration of mass vaccination, but that's later in the year when we've got more supply, when we're looking at that broad population base. But all options are still on the table. But at the moment, we're concentrating on the distribution through states and territories and through general practice.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON:          

Okay. Very much appreciate your time this morning. We've got to leave it there. Thanks so much. Australia's Chief Nurse, Alison McMillan.

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