Date published: 
19 July 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

So let's get more now on the arrival of almost a million doses of Pfizer vaccine overnight to help boost the national rollout. Lieutenant General John Frewen is the Coordinator-General of the National COVID Taskforce, he joins us now from Canberra. General Frewen, good morning to you.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

A million doses. So, where in the country will they be sent?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Look, these doses will find their way all across the country. There's, there's two big milestones in the last few days. Over the weekend, we hit the ten million doses administered to Australians mark, and now we've got this arrival of a million doses which we expect to see at least out until the end of August now. So this is great news.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. But how will it be distributed in terms of states and territories? Is it according to demand? Is it according to where the hotspots are, like Sydney and Victoria?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah, no. We're distributing the vaccines on a per capita basis so each of the states and territories will get their proportional share of these vaccines. And then they're administered through one of two ways - either through the, you know, Commonwealth GPs and distribution centres, or through the state distribution hubs.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

What about pharmacies? Increasingly we're hearing from viewers that to make it easier for them it's just easier to go to the local chemist where many go for the flu vaccines every year. What's, what's the progress on that front?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. So look, one of the things about- what's exciting about this million doses is we're also increasing the ways that the vaccines can be administered now. We've been bringing on additional GPs; by the end of the month we'll have 1300 GPs that can administer Pfizer. We're on the verge of starting to bring in more pharmacists who can also administer AstraZeneca in the first instance, but then we will prepare them to be able to administer mRNA vaccines as well.

But the combination of the additional supply and the additional distribution nodes means we're hoping we can really start to accelerate the rollout.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. And how much of the 1A group - these are people who are supposedly at the front of the crew- queue, front-line health workers and the like - where are we at with vaccinating those people?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. So of course, the vaccine rollout still does need to be prioritised on the most vulnerable. You know, the over 70s cohort; the people in aged care; frontline healthcare workers as you're talking about. One area that we are really focused on right now is the aged care workers - they're being given priority; they're being given access to Pfizer. So I really encourage all aged care workers to, to get out and get vaccinated as quickly as they can.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Sixty per cent of aged care workers are yet to receive a vaccine if my figures are correct. That's pretty bad, isn't it?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. We're at 40 per cent first dose, but 20 per cent- more than 20 per cent are now fully vaccinated. So yeah, there's some way to go. But now, I think, with this additional supply, those additional pathways to getting vaccinated, we'll be doing everything that we can to get those aged care workers done quickly.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

As we know, you need a mandatory vaccine if you are to work in aged care from September. Only 40 per cent now. Will you achieve that objective of having all aged care workers who want to be vaccinated, vaccinated by September? It's only a couple of months away.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah, look- No. No, we're working, we're working towards that target and we will do everything we can to make sure that we get there. So again, I just encourage aged care workers. We'll be doing a combination of things. We'll be doing what we describe, you know, as in reach activities where people can get vaccinated in the workplace or there will be all those other options where people can either go to their GPs or, or to some of the state hubs. So, it's a [indistinct] focus.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. It makes better sense for vaccination centres to be open at the workplaces, is at the aged care centres themselves, doesn't it?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah, well that's- there's a combination of ways that we will get to them. And some of those aged care facilities now are actually authorised to start doing their own vaccinations in the workplace. In other areas, we've got roving clinics that go to the workplaces. We've got GPs that visit some of these aged care facilities, and they'll be doing workers in the workplace as well now. So we've got multiple, multiple pathways, and we'll be trying to get workers there in whatever is the most convenient and quickest way for them.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay. Now, there was a Newspoll out this morning which shows only 40 per cent of Australians are satisfied with the way the Government's handling the vaccine rollout - that's down 13 per cent in three months. General Frewen, you're a military man. Based on that figure, how would you describe where your mission is at the moment?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Well as I said at the start, Michael, we think two really important milestones. Yesterday, at ten million Australian- pardon me, ten million doses have been administered in this country. The, the vaccine rollout only started in late February, so that's a, that's a lot of doses that've gone into Australian arms. And I thank all those Australians who have come forward to date.

Now, with the, the million doses and the additional pathways, I think that we see over the next couple of months, the vaccinated rates start to rise, provided Australians keep turning up. So I'm really pleased with what Australians have done so far in this regard. But I encourage everybody to get out, get booked, get your first dose. If you've had your first dose, please get out and get your second dose.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Hopefully they can if they will. But, gee, you've got a long way to go in terms of boosting public confidence, haven't you, in the rollout, based on that figure today?

JOHN FREWEN:    

The vaccines are coming. The distribution pathways are there. So it's all about the public wanting to turn up now. And I- at the moment0-

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

[Interrupts] And getting access, and getting access to the vaccines. Because we keep hearing from people, especially in country areas, General, despite your best efforts; despite the best efforts of all of the authorities involved, there are simply not doses going to where areas need.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. The distribution networks are being done in ways that is we will get coverage across regional and rural areas. Those 1300 GPs I spoke about, the majority of those have been focused on remote and regional areas. In pharmacists now will be an additional fill up to those areas, so that, that's another priority for us. And we're working hard to make sure that all Australians can get access to these vaccines.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:    

Okay, we'll leave it there. General Frewen, we really appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Thanks, Michael.

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