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

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Well, let's talk more now about the state of our vaccine rollout this morning because I think we'd all be forgiven for feeling a bit confused. We got the Prime Minister saying under 40s are fine to get AstraZeneca if they speak to their GP, but that advice is not supported by our state leaders. And then there's those comments of the Queensland Chief Health Officer, warning she doesn't want to see a young Australian die from blood clots.

 

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

Joining us now, Commander of the Vaccination Task Force, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, in Canberra. Lieutenant-General, thank you for your time today, really appreciate it. You're a military man leading all of this, but in reality, do you feel like you're caught in the middle?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Karl, good morning, and Alli. It's great to be here. No. Look, I've been given a really important responsibility to help accelerate the roll out from here to the end of the year. Vaccination is one of the most important ways that Australia will be able to, not only keep our citizens safe, but help get people's livelihoods back on a more even footing, and then help us enjoy the freedoms that we all want to go back to. So, big responsibility, really important. A lot of great work has been done already, but I'm really looking forward to helping get this done.

 

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Very sensible words there. That is right. I mean, vaccination is our, is our only way out of this, isn't it? But when we've got so much conflicting advice, as we've seen over the past 48 hours, whose advice are you listening to?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

I'm listening to the federal health authorities. The ATAGI advice has remained unchanged, the medical advice has remained unchanged, and that is that people can make informed consent about whichever of the vaccines are available. Both the vaccines we currently have are safe. Right now, the supplies we have of Pfizer we're having to prioritise for the over 40s. What the PM's announced the other day is that those under 40 can make an informed choice with their GP about whether they wish to access AstraZeneca right now or whether they wish to wait until later in the year for an alternative vaccine.

 

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

So what do you do if you're under 40 in Queensland, then? When you have the Chief Medical Officer saying: listen, I wouldn't take it. You could get blood clots or worse. What's your advice to them?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Well, I would hope all Australians have the right to make informed choice about the available vaccines. We have additional AstraZeneca available. In the last two days since the Prime Minister made this announcement, 2616 Australians under 40 have chosen, with informed consent, to have AstraZeneca. Now that's 2600 Australians who feel, right now, they would rather have the available vaccine than wait. So I think all Australians have that right.

 

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Lieutenant General, can you just explain where we're at with the Pfizer supply at the moment? Because we had the Health Minister of Queensland coming out yesterday saying they're going to run out of Pfizer doses in a week. But we're seeing today that, of the 800,000 delivered, only 550 have been administered and that their supply is going to be boosted in the next week or so. So, can you just, sort of, give us some clarification on that if you can?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. So look, this is a global pandemic and there is global demand for all of the vaccines. You may well remember that this time last year we, we didn't even know whether there would be effective vaccines. So we are getting as many of the vaccines as we can, as quickly as we can. We are producing AstraZeneca here domestically and we are getting Pfizer from overseas. Now, in all of the production lines there can be variables. So from one week to the next, we might get a little bit more, a little bit less. We're hoping our Pfizer supplies will start to go up over the weeks ahead, but that will be fingers crossed and we'll, we'll work with what we get when we get it.

But what is happening with Pfizer right now, by agreement of all the states and territories, we are giving per capita allocations of Pfizer to each of the states and territories. Each of the states and territories are getting their fair share of the available Pfizer, and each of the states and territories are responsible for administering those doses and for managing the first and second dose allocations.

 

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Will Queensland run out next week?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

I'll leave those numbers to Queensland to manage, but they're getting exactly the same proportional amounts of Pfizer as all of the other states and territories.

 

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

We had the Townsville Mayor on yesterday, and regional Australia, I think, there is a perception is missing out. She said that, that they have dramas in storing Pfizer, in getting Pfizer up to those communities. And we know that it's very important re Indigenous communities up there as well. Do you have, do you have problems with the roll out of Pfizer in some of those regional areas where it's, where it's particularly hot?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. So look, the, the logistical arrangements around Pfizer are a bit more challenging than AstraZeneca at the moment. Some of those early requirements around refrigeration and the like have been changing, and in the early days, we had very few storage facilities for that. We are increasing those number of storage facilities now. We have got a very sophisticated distribution network, but we are getting Pfizer and AstraZeneca to all of the areas around the country. We've been opening up additional GPs, and recently additional pharmacies in some of those more remote and regional areas where there isn't necessarily access to GPs. But we're very conscious of having to get these vaccines right across the nation.

 

ALLISON LANGDON:      

It's a big job you've got, isn't it?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Look, it's- An awful lot of work has been done up until my arrival, Alli, and a lot of great work. And we are just now trying to accelerate as we start to get these more readily available supplies of vaccines as they come on. It's a big job, but it's a really important responsibility. And everybody in the taskforce are relishing the opportunity to help the nation on this really important roll out.

 

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

Lieutenant-General, just finally. It is a guaranteed Pfizer supply, isn't it?

 

JOHN FREWEN:    

Look, contracts are in place. As I said, there are always variables in production lines and there are all sorts of other all sorts of other disruptions that can happen. But the forecasts that we've got that I've now released out to the end of the year, it's very plain that we will have more than adequate supply to get every Australian who wants to be vaccinated this year vaccinated.

 

KARL STEFANOVIC:      

Good to talk to you. Thanks so much for your time as always. Appreciate it.

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