Lieutenant General John Frewen's interview on ABC News Breakfast on 13 September 2021

Read the transcript of Lieutenant General John Frewen's interview on ABC News Breakfast on 13 September 2021 about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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LISA MILLAR: As we have been reporting this morning, all children aged 12 and over will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine with the Prime Minister promising everyone who wants a jab will be able to get one by the end of October.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It comes as the Government confirmed it has secured an extra one billion does of the Moderna vaccine from EU nations unable to use the jabs before they expire. And the Government released a new ad last night encouraging more Australians to get vaccinated


VOICEOVER: What will you do first? Dance? Feast? Chop the mop? Go nowhere? Go somewhere? Or say hello? Before we can do the thing we want to do, there's something we all need to do first. Book your COVID-19 vaccination at

[End of excerpt]

MICHAEL ROWLAND:  Not a bad ad. Lieutenant-General John Frewen is the coordinator of the national COVID-19 vaccine taskforce. He joins us now from Canberra. General Frewen, good morning to you.

JOHN FREWEN: Morning Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to start with some news this morning about the accelerated rollout of vaccines for Indigenous communities in Australia.

JOHN FREWEN: Yeah, look, we are working very closely with the states and territories, the Indigenous health network and the Indigenous advisory council. We have developed a list of 30 areas that we will be giving priority attention to over the next weeks and months to make sure that we can get the vaccination rates up as high as we can as quickly as we can.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, because it has been a serious issue, hasn't it, in sadly many Indigenous communities in the country, particularly in western New South Wales, the relative lack of vaccinations on the ground?

JOHN FREWEN: Look, there's hesitancy in many of these communities too, Michael, so that is a really important issue for us. So, again we are working with community leaders, with church groups and elders, and we've got plans to get the best information we can out and to get leaders to start encouraging their communities to take up these vaccination opportunities because it is really important for these communities.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: From today, parents and guardians of 12 to 15 year olds can make bookings for their children to be vaccinated. Are there enough supplies in the country at the moment to ensure that those bookings will be met with vaccinations sooner rather than later?

JOHN FREWEN: Yeah, so, this is really exciting news. It is great to have access open to 12 to 15 year olds now. Access will be available for both Pfizer and Moderna from next week, and the Moderna will be coming through the pharmacy networks. So we are also excited about that. Two very similar mRNA vaccines. People obviously need to get online, make the bookings. I do ask for just a little bit of patience as we get them settled in over the next couple of weeks but people should be able to get on and get bookings within a couple of weeks.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, so, when do you see we will reach the point, General Frewen, that there will be enough vaccines in the country in state-run hubs, in pharmacies, in GP clinics, enough vaccines for everybody over the age of 12 who wants one?

JOHN FREWEN: So, from the middle of October we believe we will have enough vaccines in the country to fully vaccinate every eligible person in Australia. So really, we are in a period now where we are shifting from any sense of supply constraint. We've got a distribution network now with- we will be getting close to 10,000 points of presence. They're GPs, pharmacy, state-run hubs and the likes where people can go. So, we've got the supply, we think we've got the distribution network. Now it really comes down to people stepping forward, getting booked in and getting vaccinated. As the ad says, for those people still making up their minds, there is one thing you've got to do first, and that is to get vaccinated before we can hope to get back to all of those other things that we want to do.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, so we've got the ad running. What about the prospect of some form of financial incentive to especially get that target above 70 per cent, closer to 80 per cent?

JOHN FREWEN:  Yeah. So, Michael, at the moment all of the sentiment surveys we have got are really encouraging. More than 80 per cent of people are saying they intend to get vaccinated. There is another significant proportion of that remainder who are still making up their mind. Right now we are on a really strong track to get to 70 per cent fully vaccinated and then I think continue on to 80. But it is about people turning up, it's about people making that decision to get booked in and then to see it through.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Will financial incentives be looked at to help achieve that aim?

JOHN FREWEN: Right now I think, as I said, the sentiment is there, people intend to get vaccinated. What we are seeing is the best motivators are choice of vaccine, convenience of vaccination and then the freedoms that that will bring. Now that we've got these additional mRNA vaccines copping on, we think choice is there. We've now opened up to nearly every member of the community for all of the available vaccines. Convenience, we are growing the distribution networks. We will have 3500 pharmacies up by the end of the month doing both AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines, so the convenience is coming. And then once we get to these 70 and 80 per cent fully vaccinated rates, then there is a plan to get us back to those sorts of freedoms we want to enjoy.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. But if choice and desire aren't enough, especially when we hit 70 per cent, we want to get to 80 per cent, ideally higher, is there the option being considered for some sort of financial incentive for Australians?

JOHN FREWEN:  Oh, look, we will keep a ring of inventive options open but right now we think people are turning up, people will continue to turn up. We will keep monitoring it. The areas of most concern to me right now are those areas of hesitancy. The first things first ad is designed to help encourage those people to make the choice to get vaccinated, but we will also be working in the information space to make sure we are getting the right messaging out and we are contesting incorrect information where we have to.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: General Frewen, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

JOHN FREWEN: Thanks, guys.


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