Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan's press conference on 20 June 2021

Read the transcript of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor Alison McMillan's press conference about COVID-19 on 20 June 2021.

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ALISON MCMILLAN: Good afternoon. I'm here to provide an update on the current COVID situation. I can report that the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee met just recently, and the current update is that New South Wales have seen and reported two new cases. Both cases are already known as close contacts and are in quarantine. One case in Queensland which is a flight crew that has already been in hotel quarantine. Queensland continue to investigate that case and I expect we'll hear more in the coming days about that unusual case. And in Victoria, no cases today which is terrific.

I think it's really important that we remind everybody that what we're seeing here with some cases across the country means that COVID-19 has not gone away. And so wherever you are and whatever you're doing, if you have any symptoms whatsoever, please do get tested and get tested quickly. There’s access to testing across the country and that's a really important part of protecting the community.

Also, it's really important that wherever you are that you look at what the local restrictions are. We've heard that New South Wales have introduced some mask wearing now indoors, and they've expanded some of those restrictions more broadly. So, wherever you are, make sure you keep up to date with what you're required to do, because that will help keep you informed. And if you're planning to travel, again, have a look to see because constantly- the websites are being updated with exposure sites and what you're required to do wherever you are, wherever you're planning to travel. Sorry, phone's just ringing a little bit here.

Let me go to the vaccine. I can report that our figures are showing that 64,500 doses were delivered yesterday, which is a great number. That is 3700 doses more than the equivalent day last week. So you may have heard that we were concerned that we may see a drop off in people getting vaccinated. But I think these numbers are really encouraging.

So, again, the message and emphasis we're trying to make is that despite the changes that you've heard, the recommendations from ATAGI, if you're in that 50-59-year-old age group and you've had your first AstraZeneca vaccine, we are strongly recommending, please, to get your second vaccine. That's how you'll get maximum protection. And that's a part of the two dose program.

If you're in the 60 plus, which is the AstraZeneca, again, please don't hesitate to get your vaccine. It's really important that you do that. It gives you the greatest protection from COVID. And you are in a group, if you're over 60,that are at the greatest risk of severe disease or death if you do contract COVID. I'll go to questions now, so I'll go to Claire.

QUESTION: Thanks, Alison. I have a couple, actually. Firstly, we're seeing in New South Wales with the contact tracing, because this is the Delta variant, we've had what's being described as the fleeting contact, someone catching COVID just by passing another, and therefore they've had to advise anyone who has been in the Westfield Bondi Shopping Centre for- at any point in those two days to get a test. What challenges is this Delta variant presenting for contact tracing, given in the past it's often been if you've had prolonged exposure, that you're more likely to get the virus?

ALISON MCMILLAN: I think that, Claire, there's two things. I think one of the things we're hearing from New South Wales is that where people have used the QR codes, it's giving those contact tracers really strong and valuable information as to who was in those areas. But where we're seeing what appears to be, as you'd heard, very fleeting contact it means that they are expanding that group of people. But again, because of QR codes, we do know who's been there. And that's incredibly useful when trying to follow up large volumes of people, when you've got those details already to hand.

QUESTION: And also on the Delta variant, there's this concern overseas that it's infecting a lot more younger people than some of the previous iterations and causing more severe disease. That's a cohort in Australia that's largely unpopulated; they're at the back of the queue. Is there a concern there that there's been a failure to protect young people now that there is this variant that is more risky to them?

ALISON MCMILLAN: So, Claire, as we've known from the outset, the data that we've been working with is that the older you get, the greater the risk, and certainly the 60s and plus, we know that risk and that's where our priority is in the vaccine. But all along, we've always said also that you need to do all of those things to keep yourself COVID safe. So the vaccine rollout does not negate the necessity to do those things, whether you're 20, 40 or 60. The hand hygiene, the cough etiquette, staying home if you get sick, getting tested. So, they will help protect that younger population, and over time, we will get to everyone in those age groups.

QUESTION: And New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, today indicated she would request more vaccine doses for New South Wales, much how Victoria got extra supply when they had their outbreak. Is there supply in the system to accommodate a request like that? And going forward, do you expect that extra doses could continually be sent to places with outbreaks?

ALISON MCMILLAN: So the team here in this building today are working through, as they do every day, how the allocation of the vaccine works. I can't speak for exactly what New South Wales will get and how they'll get it. But we are continuously working with those jurisdictions so that we can provide them as much supply as we possibly can. I'll leave that to the negotiators that do that. But we have seen, of course, as was requested, an increase in the doses in Victoria this month and next month.

QUESTION: Are you able to speak generally to what Australian health officials are looking at in terms of variance of concerns now that we are seeing them increasingly on our shores? What sort of work is being undertaken in collaboration with our partners overseas?

ALISON MCMILLAN: So we have the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, the CDNA, and they are constantly reviewing all of the literature and all of the information that we gather from across the world. We work, obviously, with the WHO and a whole range of other organisations to constantly monitor and see how this virus continues to vary as we've seen. We know that Delta is more easily caught, more infective. And of course, that's a concern. But we are confident that these vaccines are effective against these variants. And that's the important message going forward they will protect- these vaccines will protect you from severe disease and death, but they don't prevent the possibility of transmission. So that's our focus going forward.

QUESTION: And just lastly, are you able to indicate from the announcement on Thursday, it was implied that 1300 GPs would soon be able to give out Pfizer sometime next month? Has there been any progress on the timeline for that?

ALISON MCMILLAN: I think the vaccine update will be provided tomorrow. The weekly updates will be clearer then tomorrow exactly who and when. But certainly we're working closely with the AMA and the RSCGP to prepare for that rollout. There's a lot to do to make sure for storage and all of those things that we've got all our systems in place for when that happens. So it happens safely and effectively. Anna?

QUESTION: Oh, hello. Sorry. So apologies if I'm repeating anything because I couldn't hear, but I'm just wondering what the situation is with the rollout in New South Wales with the Pfizer. Will there be GPs rolling it out from next week? And then, do we know the number that will be enlisted to help roll out the Pfizer, particularly to the 50 year olds who are now lining up for it? Some of them are waiting, I think- are being told that they can't get appointments before August at the moment. Will that improve?

ALISON MCMILLAN: So, Anna, yes. The Pfizer vaccine because of some of the changes, of course, to the storage requirements, it has made it much easier for us to be able to deliver Pfizer through GPs. That process is underway. And I know we will give a more fulsome report on the vaccine rollout tomorrow, as is now the nature, and I understand that that will be provided as you would expect. It will take us - we need to work through the training and the logistics to get it to these GP practices, but we now will see it being rolled out to them.

QUESTION: And do you have any - and, again, apologies if you've already responded to this - but the Pfizer [indistinct] which is been heaps of people that there's been 210 dead and 24,000 adverse reactions related to the vaccine, and 5000 deaths in the USA clearly related to Pfizer. Have you got any response to these pamphlets?

ALISON MCMILLAN: Anna, what I would suggest to anyone watching today is please get your information from the reliable sources. The Federal Government, any government will not be putting little leaflets through your door. If you go to, we provide all of the information you need to know in multiple languages about what these vaccines are, how they work, what are the side effects, and what you should expect. So the most important thing for everyone is to go to the trusted sources to get your information and not to get it from anywhere else. I don't want to comment on flyers or the nature of that. I'm going to reassure people if they go to our website, they'll get the most up to date information.

QUESTION:  Okay. And were any- what's the current expectation for when we'll get the vast majority of the population immunised?

ALISON MCMILLAN: So we're still working to get every Australian - everyone in Australia who is willing to get the vaccine their first dose by the end of the year. We're still on track to do that, and that's our aim. If we can do it sooner, all the better. But that's still our aim. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated by the end of the year.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

ALISON MCMILLAN: Thanks for your time.


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