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

TOM CONNELL:    

Well, I spoke a short time ago with the Chief Nursing Officer, Alison McMillan, asking her about this very topic.

[Excerpt]

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

I too have heard, in fact, two reports of deaths of people who have recently received the vaccine. I think a very important message is not for us to jump to conclusions, as you suggest. The process is that New South Wales Health will report these to the TGA and TGA put out some information statement yesterday - through rigorous investigation of the clinical circumstances. So, it's important to remember that we see about 50 patients present with some forms of clot every day. And so, there's not necessary-

TOM CONNELL:    

[Talks over] Aside from vaccines, any form of clotting?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Any form of clotting, yes. So, it is a very common thing to find people have some form of clotting. So, I say, about 50 a day is quite a high number.

TOM CONNELL:    

Right. We'll wait to get more information on that. But I suppose the key question right now, what figures do you have on vaccine hesitancy? You know, are you work on trying to figure out what percentage right now the population is unlikely to get a COVID vaccination?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We're looking at the hesitancy. We're looking at what people are saying. There's always a measure of people who will express their hesitancies. To some extent, there are people who are saying I will get it, but not right now. Obviously, not everyone is eligible yet to get it and so, as the roll out continues we'll see people become eligible and be able to access it through the range of places, GPs and the vaccination hubs in the states and territories. We continue to monitor it and we do work very hard to also dispel some of the myths that we do see around vaccines and we encourage everyone to keep informed, by using our website which is the health.gov.au.

TOM CONNELL:    

Is it fair to say right now that there's more hesitancy around this vaccine than others in Australia?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

I don't know that you can compare. I don't know that we do that level of comparison because many of the other vaccines, the childhood vaccines that we see- we see huge uptake of those. We're an enormously successful country in vaccinating, particularly our children and we see, as we did last year, massive uptake of the flu vaccine. So, we're used to taking vaccines. I think people are just listening, waiting and watching and expressing some views around-

TOM CONNELL:    

[Talks over] So, do you still hope we could get as high as- you know, of people [audio skip] take it in the 90s in Australia? Percentage wise?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We haven't set a target; we want everyone who wants to get it to get it by the end of the year.

TOM CONNELL:    

Yeah, but is that your hope? Because you said you don't necessarily see this as something that people are more hesitant about? That would imply that maybe we can get something that high, as we do in other programs?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We'd like to, yes. But, we need to- there's two doses. There'll be extra- potentially, another vaccine available later in the year, as Professor Murphy said a few days ago. So, look, we're working to maximise the number of people who get the vaccine safely and effectively when it comes their turn.

TOM CONNELL:    

Okay. Now, we've heard from Professor Murphy before, it's not a race. There is a race on 1A and 1B, if you like, the vulnerable groups. We've had the recalibration in the Government's language already. Are they going to be vaccinated by winter?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We're working as quickly as we can to get as many vaccinated. One of the areas that we've ramped up in recent days is that of aged care and disability workers. We've widened [audio skip] access they can get, that vaccine through that group. We'll see- we're well established in vaccinating aged care residents, significant numbers of facilities complete now with first and second dose and rolling and continuing to roll that out-

TOM CONNELL:    

[Talks over] Would you agree with that? That winter is crucial and are we going to get to that target or not?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, we're working towards a target, I can't predict the future. It does depend on uptake. So, we're doing everything we possibly can to get that 1A and 1B complete.

TOM CONNELL:    

It's pretty close now though. I mean, you'd have a good idea whether that's going to happen before winter?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, again, I can't necessarily predict the future. We're going to do everything we possibly can by making this available as widely as we can to particularly those priority groups.

TOM CONNELL:    

Daily capability appears to have levelled out at the moment at about 60,000 vaccinations today. Once we have the next phase of this AstraZeneca available on a wider scale to over 50s, what can daily capability get to then?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, I think our capability is- we saw some time ago, 100,000 a day. So, look, I think that we're introducing more places where vaccines can be accessed through specialist facilities for aged care and disability workers, expanding of the GP network, more of the GP respiratory clinics coming online. So, we're continuing to expand our capacity. Always, of course, we are somewhat constrained by supply. We have to work with what we've got available for us from the domestic supply and from overseas and will do- try to get this vaccine to as many people as we can.

TOM CONNELL:    

So casting forward even into this next phase in sort of mid-May when AstraZeneca is more widely available, do you have a figure, 100,000? Is that sort of what we'll see the capability go up to?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We will do everything we can to maximise capability. I can't speak to a figure. We've seen that before, so we could see that again. It will depend on the uptake of people, except the more we make it available, the more accessible it is, particularly on those priority of 1A and 1B, the more we'll see.

TOM CONNELL:    

Just casting forward to sort of later in the year when this might be more logical. Is the Government looking to utilise the private workforce that vaccinate people against flu in workplaces, you know, while they're at work?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Not at this point in time we're not- we look at a whole range of different options about how we can get the vaccine. The transport and storage of these are a very important part of its safety aspects. So, we need to be able to make sure that those providers can meet those safety aspects. We're looking particularly at these vaccine hubs and other programs.

TOM CONNELL:    

So, those providers- just to jump in there, would they be able to - would they not be able to administer Pfizer [audio skip] or was that still a possibility?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Pfizer needs very specialised refrigeration and so, it may be that that would be something that they could do, but they'd need to be able to meet all those respects. So, we're not ruling out any option about how we might deliver this. We will continue to look for new ways to do that.

TOM CONNELL:    

Because I guess the benefit there is that people don't have to take time off and you often see in these programs, I mean, we've had flu vaccinations here at Sky News and people that haven't even signed up say: oh, they're coming in, great, I'll get it. It just seems like a really logical way to maybe drive up vaccination rates if it's logistically possible?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

If it's logistically possible. And as I say, we'll continue to look at the ways that we can deliver this to the community. Right now, we've got those 1A and 1B and prioritising the most vulnerable. So, we've got these teams of people going into aged care facilities and disability facilities.

TOM CONNELL:    

Is work being done on opening up another federal quarantine hub?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Not at this point in time [audio skip] we go to work on a daily basis on additional options. We're working with the providers on how we can get- maximise our capacity and we'll make further announcements. But we are working, as you know, very closely with the jurisdictions to use their facilities.

TOM CONNELL:    

We have specific offers or proposals; Toowoomba, Melbourne being spoken about today. So, what happens with them? Are the state and federal government actually working on that?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

We work every day together. So, there are conversations held about planning options, where the workforce will come from, how they'll work. Those conversations happen every day on a range of levels.

TOM CONNELL:    

I mean, Toowoomba, to take one example, it doesn't seem to be progressing. We hear the Premier mention it and we hear sort of a lukewarm response from the Prime Minister. And we're left to think: what's happening on this?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, the conversations do continue. We are concentrating at the moment on 1A and 1B and going through those [audio skip] in-reach programs, the GP programs, the respiratory clinics, delivering the vaccine through those avenues. Other avenues may come online over time.

TOM CONNELL:    

Professor Alison McMillan, thanks for your time today.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Thank you.

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