Lieutenant General John Frewen's interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 10 January 2022

Read the transcript of Lieutenant General John Frewen's interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 10 January 2022 about coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination program for 5 to 11-year olds.

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HAMISH MACDONALD: Well, Lieutenant General John Frewen is the Federal COVID-19 Task Force Commander. Welcome to Breakfast.

JOHN FREWEN: Hi, Hamish, how are you?

HAMISH MACDONALD: With so many Australian parents struggling to find appointments or having existing appointments cancelled, do you now accept that supply is an issue?

JOHN FREWEN: No, Hamish, today is an important day in the rollout. We've had, you know, weeks to prepare for today. I- the anecdotal evidence you're alluding to there doesn't sort of stack up with the preparations that are in place, and the many, many thousands of bookings that are ready to go today and will happen across the country.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Why do you say it doesn't stack up? I mean, it's not like these anecdotes are isolated or limited. Right across the country there are parents, also GP surgeries and networks, as well as pharmacies, saying we just do not have the stock to deliver on this.

JOHN FREWEN: Well, I mean, Hamish, if you provide me specific examples, then we'll work with those pharmacies and GPs to ensure they have got the supply. But we've got more than 10,000 distribution points across the country now where people can get vaccinated. The majority of those will be involved in the rollout for 5 to elevens. We've been- last week we did almost 10,000 deliveries across the country. This week, there's another 11,000 deliveries across the country. People have been able to make bookings for kids for over a month now. We've had massive take on boosters over the last couple of weeks. We've been having record days just about every day on the booster uptake, and we expect to see a very strong start to rollout for kids today.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Okay, I will give you specific examples, then. Anna Davidson, Director of the GP Super Clinic at Nelson Bay in New South Wales. She says: I listened to General Frewen, he said, we can order what we like; the truth is we actually can't, we got allocated 50 vaccines a week, we have the capacity to easily do 500 a day.

JOHN FREWEN: So, Hamish, I will take that back to the Vaccine Operation Centre. But again, any of the providers who have got specific concerns, they just need to contact the Vaccine Operation Centre. We have been working with providers around the clock over recent weeks to ensure that vaccines are in place for the rollout. Those sorts of amounts of vaccines aren't the amounts of vaccines that we've been providing to places. But again, we're keen to work with them, and we'll make sure that we get vaccines to them as quickly as we can, if they haven't already got them.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Okay, another specific example. Megan Anderson booked her five-year-old son Aiden into their local Glebe medical centre, received a text message on Friday saying it had to cancel the appointment due to the supply shortage. Do you still stand by this claim that supply is not an issue?

JOHN FREWEN: Hamish, there are 2.3 million kids that become eligible for vaccination today. We've already got two million doses of vaccine in the country, they're being delivered around the country through last week and this week. We will have more than enough vaccines for every kid to have their first dose before the end of the year [correction - end of the month]. Again, the specifics of the booking system at that particular clinic I'm not aware of. But what I'd say to people also is that if you can't get your booking at the moment through your primary provider, like a GP, please do try pharmacies. Please do try state and territory hubs. They become open because there are more and more bookings becoming available every day. And through the course of this month, there will be many, many thousands of bookings available.

HAMISH MACDONALD: So you do acknowledge that it can be challenging for parents or individuals to even find a booking?

 JOHN FREWEN: Look, Hamish, if there has been circumstances of people having trouble finding a booking, I'm not going to contest that. But for every one of these anecdotal stories, there are many thousands of positive stories. You know, I'm talking to people all of the time. There are lots of people who got online many weeks ago, got their bookings in place, they're ready to go. And through the course of this week, you know, thousands of parents and their kids will be lining up and getting their bookings fulfilled.

HAMISH MACDONALD: You're saying: if there is. Are you doubting that people are having these challenges?

JOHN FREWEN: Hamish, there are millions of people across the country who have just become eligible in this context. You know, if there are minor concerns here and there, then I'm not, sort of, surprised by that. Of course, we're working very hard to ensure that that's not the case. But again, we've had, just on boosters alone, we've had- 3.5 million people have turned up for boosters in recent weeks. We're now doing more than 1.2 million vaccines a week. This is getting back up towards some of the very high levels where we were last year. We're going to be pushing to get back up to around two million vaccines a week. I mean, this is a massive enterprise. There is a lot of people getting vaccines very quickly, right across the country. So again, I just encourage people to a little bit of patience, a little bit of persistence, and I have no doubt they'll be able to get access to vaccines in the weeks ahead.

HAMISH MACDONALD: Lieutenant General John Frewen, appreciate your time this morning. We know it's a busy day. Thank you.

JOHN FREWEN: Thanks, Hamish.

HAMISH MACDONALD: That's the Commander of the Federal COVID-19 Task Force.



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