Date published: 
23 February 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

JONATHAN GREEN:        

And I'm sure the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, is on board with Jane's words. Professor Kidd, welcome.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Hi, Jonathan. Yes, wasn't Jane wonderful yesterday?

JONATHAN GREEN:        

Indeed, she was, and that's a pretty resounding endorsement, despite the hand signal that she gave in the video but we'll leave that where it lies. This is a huge logistical operation. What do you see as the biggest challenges now in getting that ultimate objective, vaccinating the bulk of the population by October?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, obviously, everything's rolling out really well today. We've seen the vaccine being administered to many hundreds of people through the 16 hubs that have been established by the states and territories, and very importantly, seeing people who are working in quarantine and the Border Forces. The people working on the frontline of our health care services are receiving that protection. But also, we've seen the start of the flying squads of nurse immunisers who are travelling out this week. They'll be going to 190 towns and suburbs right across Australia, to 240 residential aged care facilities, and a number of disability care facilities to start to immunise these very vulnerable people in our community, and staff, of course, of those facilities will be vaccinated as well.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

That is a huge. State to state, I mean, is this going to be a different experience in different places, or are you pretty confident in the common nature of it federally?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, the hubs are being run by the states and the states are identifying the quarantine and border workers and the health care workers who are going to receive the vaccines in each of those hubs. The Commonwealth is rolling out the vaccines to the residential aged care facilities, and then in about four to six weeks' time, we'll start rolling out the vaccine through general practices right across the country.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

That's certainly going to be a big moment. Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association today - you mentioned their aged care facilities - they've called for a one week delay in the rollout in aged care centres to give them more time to prepare. Is there a sense that things are not quite ready?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, no, I don't think so. Aged care facilities across the country have been preparing for this rollout for the last couple of months. And last week, aged care facilities started sending out to their residents, and also to the next of kin, details about the vaccine, making sure that people had the information that they needed, making sure that when people were giving consent to get the vaccine, they knew exactly what was happening.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

The information flow is an interesting thing, especially in the light of what's happened with Facebook in the last few days. Are you worried that given- in it being such an important medium for delivering information to many Australians, are you worrying that the information on that platform may be sort of skewing towards vaccine hesitancy in the absence of more formal news channels there?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Yeah. So fortunately, the Australian Government Department of Health website and services were not impacted by the decision by Facebook last week. So people can still access health.gov.au, and there is a lot of information there about the vaccines, about the rollout. There's a checker there to check your eligibility, which of the different priority groups might you fall in and when might it be your turn to line up and get the vaccine. So lots of information there. Yes, it is important that we're using all forms of communication to get information out to people about the vaccine and to make sure that people can have access to information they need. But of course, there are other sources of information that people can go to as well. You know, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper. And of course, if people are concerned, talking to your GP, talking to your trusted healthcare providers about the vaccine.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

And yet, we are talking about that phrase, vaccine hesitancy, that there is- it can't be stepped aside. There is there is that body of view in the community that either people are flat out against vaccines of any description or people who are particularly hesitant about this one because of the speed of its introduction. You know, all sorts of reasons why they may have some concerns. Are you worried about that general issue of hesitation around these vaccines?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, look, I'm worried that anybody who may benefit from this vaccine, if they decide not to get the vaccine, that leaves that person still at risk of COVID-19. What we know is the Therapeutic Goods Administration has been through the same thorough and rigorous processes that it goes through for every new vaccine, for every new medication introduced into Australia. Yes, it's happened very quickly. But no corners have been cut. And what we know is that we have two vaccines now approved for use in Australia; both are safe, both are effective. Most importantly, we know that both are very effective at preventing the development of serious disease and the risk of death in people who contract COVID-19.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

Suggestion that the mention of vaccine and its roll out prompted booing at the Australian Open final last night. Tennis Australia executive Jayne Hrdlicka was speaking. Let's have a listen.

[Excerpt]

JAYNE HRDLICKA:         

With vaccinations on the way rolling out in many countries around the world, it's now a time for optimism and hope for the future.

[End of excerpt]

JONATHAN GREEN:        

It's not an exhaustive sample, Michael Kidd, but what do you make of that?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, a small number of people making a boo noise in a large stadium can, of course, be amplified. I expect the vast majority of people who are at the at the Open last night are fully in support of the vaccine and will be lining up, as I will, Jonathan, when it's my turn to get the vaccine.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

We know that we have the Pfizer vaccine. We know we have the AstraZeneca vaccine. What's your message to Australians who are looking at both of those and thinking that: I'd rather have the Pfizer?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Well, what we know, we've got ongoing research coming out about the effectiveness of both of those vaccines and a lot of real world experience now. Over 170 million people have received the first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines in countries all around the world. And we're seeing how effective these vaccines are. In Israel, for example, we've seen a dramatic reduction in the number of people presenting to hospital with severe symptoms. We've seen a dramatic reduction in the number of people ending up in intensive care units. In other countries, we're watching very closely to see the impact of the vaccination rollout in their countries as well. And of course, we'll be monitoring and documenting things very closely in Australia as well.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

You mentioned Israel, and that's sort of the gold standard at the moment in terms of national rollout. But even there, it's only reached 30 per cent of the population. Does that concern you?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

It doesn't concern me, because, of course, they've only had a small number of weeks to achieve that amazing number. So they're rolling out very, very quickly. And already, even with that percentage of people having been immunised, we're seeing a very significant impact on severe disease. But winter is coming in Australia. We saw the impact of the cold months in the northern hemisphere. Very important that we're protecting people in Australia before winter arrives, and also protecting people against influenza in case we get a serious outbreak in influenza this year.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

Professor Kidd, have you had yours?

MICHAEL KIDD:   

I'm not eligible yet, Jonathan.

[Laughter]

So like everybody else in Australia, I'm waiting until it's my turn. But when my time comes, yes, I'll be turning- making an appointment. I'll be turning up, rolling up my sleeves, and getting my first shot. And then following the instructions as to when you get the second shot.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

Thanks so much for your time.

MICHAEL KIDD:   

Thanks, Jonathan.

JONATHAN GREEN:        

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd.

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