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

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

Well Australia's vaccine rollout has been dealt another blow, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration investigating the deaths of two people in New South Wales who passed away just days after getting the COVID jab.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Joining us now is Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan in Canberra. Professor, thanks for your time this morning. There's no clear link at this point between the vaccine and their deaths. But nonetheless, it is a blow to confidence, isn't it?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Yes, Ally. Just to reiterate that, yes, at this point of time there isn't any known link. The TGA will receive this report from New South Wales and will look at the circumstances of the sad loss of these two people. And there's a clear process by which these events are investigated, and in time we will hear the consequences of that result and the TGA will reveal that. I think the important message is that this is a part of an established process we have in place. And remember that we do see about 50 people, unfortunately, across the country come to hospital with clots every week. So we need to allow this investigation to run its course and we shouldn't jump to any conclusions.

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

I would imagine that's difficult to manage with expectations from family as well who have lost a loved one. A 55-year-old man was amongst them. And if you're a family member, you want answers.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

You do. But you want to know what the answers are. And we need to be very respectful to those families' loss as well. They need to be able to grieve privately. And there are doctors and nurses and those who surround them will keep them informed about the process and support them through this sad loss that they've seen in recent days.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Professor, we're hearing today that the UK has secured an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer jab. So that will be their booster jab, effectively their third. Why are we struggling so much to get our hands on it?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well Ally, as you know, we secured 40 million Pfizer vaccines for our program. The ATAGI or the expert group will continue to look at what the evidence is around whether we will need a third dose, and then perhaps like we do with flu, regular doses every year after that. So depending on what ATAGI find and what the recommendations are, then those processes will be established should we need to purchase more Pfizer into the future. And remember, it's one of our two vaccines that we have available to us in Australia.

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

It's still a little bit surprising to wake up to that news. And look, I know even the world health authority, we spoke to them in the first hour of the program today, and they were quite surprised they'd managed to secured 60 million extra doses. Is there a bit of stockpiling going on?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Look, Karl, I can't answer that. That's really- whatever the UK have been able to secure is really their business. I know that our Government is constantly in communication with Pfizer around supply and we'll continue to do that. That's an issue for the British Government.

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

I guess for every day Australians, though, when they see that they are going to be delivered 60 million extras by the middle of the year and we haven't got all of ours coming until the end of the year, it can leave them scratching their heads a little.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, Karl, as you know, again, we have two vaccines available to us in Australia and we will potentially have a third later in the year. So our program is planned and designed based on that. I think we are in somewhat of a different circumstance to the United Kingdom where we just are not seeing the community transmission here, of which we are really so fortunate. It's not so in Europe and in Great Britain.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

You make the point we have access to more than just Pfizer. Your issue is that a whole lot of people don't want to get the AstraZeneca.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Well, that's right. We do know that there are people who are expressing some hesitancy. We continue to monitor what people are telling us around the vaccine. And generally people are saying that they're looking at what is going on and the information available to them. And when their turn comes, Ally, it may be that they'll make that decision to have the vaccine. I do encourage everyone to get this vaccine. We know that they're incredibly effective against severe disease and death. And we need to remind ourselves of that. And over time, I do believe we'll see a strong uptake of the vaccine as we've seen vaccine uptake in Australia so successful for so long.

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

We get what you're saying. But I guess, Professor, at the end of the day, there are people in the frontline, workers who are dealing with the aged care in our hospitals, only 10 per cent have taken up that vaccine. It leads the rest of the community to go hang on, they are not doing it and they are in the profession, why would I do it?

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

So Karl, with the changes we made to the vaccine program, the recalibration as we're saying, we've looked to new and a diverse range of ways that aged care workers and disability workers can access the vaccine. And that program has commenced and we are looking to work with the states and territories so they can access it through their hubs. So we're creating lots and lots of opportunities for those aged care and disability workers, and healthcare workers of course as well. And I do strongly encourage them to get the information relevant to them and get that vaccine because it will protect them and obviously their patients and clients and residents.

KARL STEFANOVIC:       

Good to talk to you, Professor. Thanks for your time as always.

ALISON MCMILLAN:      

Thank you.

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