Date published: 
25 August 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Well, breaking news this hour. Pfizer vaccines are now available to all Victorians under 40, with 450,000 appointments going live just moments ago. It follows a similar move by New South Wales in COVID hot spots. Lieutenant General John Frewen heads the COVID Vaccination Taskforce. and joins us now live from Canberra. Lieutenant General, thanks for your time this morning.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Good to be with you, Ally.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

How are we tracking at the moment?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Look, the rollout is really gaining momentum, Ally. We're now up over 17.5 million doses nationally, we averaged around about 300,000 doses a day last week. People in Australia are coming forward to get vaccinated. It's really pleasing to see.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

So, are we on schedule? Are we perhaps a little ahead of schedule?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. No look, I'm, I'm very pleased where we are right now. We've got more than one in two of us have had our, our first jabs now, almost a third of us are fully vaccinated. But we've got a long way to go. We've got to drive up towards those 70 per cent, 80 per cent sort of fully vaccinated numbers. So pleasing where we are, but there's a, there's a lot of work yet to be done, and we really need people in Australia to keep coming forward.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

And how are you going getting vaccines to some of those remote vulnerable communities, particularly in western New South Wales where we've seen outbreaks?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. So, we've been working really closely with the New South Wales authorities there. We've shipped additional vaccines out there. We've now got- the Royal Flying Doctors Service have started doing vaccinations out there as well. You might have seen the ADF are now out there, also the AUSMAT teams are there. So that's been a really great concerted effort, and there's also really good progress happening with the communities out there.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

We are just looking too at the bottom of the screen, all the different states and where they're at. You know, there's a big difference, isn't there, in how, how fast states are pushing ahead with this?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. Well I mean, some states have had to face these terrible outbreaks so that, of course, gives them a real impetus. In New South Wales you would have seen the Government managed to source those additional doses from Poland, and half of those went to New South Wales to help with South Western Sydney. So, there's a couple of different reasons why, you know, some jurisdictions have managed to get a little bit ahead of others. But we are working hard to make sure that we're bringing everybody along at the same speed. So, we'll be, we'll be working closely to, to make sure we can get others catching up where we can.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

And good news for Victorians under the age of 40, that they're now eligible for Pfizer. But we're hearing reports this morning some people are waiting up to eight weeks between their first and second Pfizer shot. When will we have the supply to bring that back to the recommended three weeks?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah, sure. So look, decisions are being made in and around hot spots about what the priority is, and the priority should be to get first jabs into people. We're opening up, nationally, the same cohort, the 16 to 39-year-olds from 30 August - the national booking system will be open then. But we will need people just to be a little bit patient.

AstraZeneca available now. Fantastic vaccine. Many, many thousands of Australians are still taking up the AstraZeneca. But the middle of September we're expecting Moderna to come online, that's another mRNA vaccine. And then, on current schedules, early October we've got, you know, much greater amounts of Pfizer available as well.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Are you concerned at all about the wait between those two Pfizer jabs that we're seeing? And the level of effectiveness, potentially?

JOHN FREWEN:    

No. Look, that's in accordance with medical guidance and I'll and I'll leave that to others to comment on. But the, the guidance is being followed and the states and territories are managing that appropriately.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

So, just looking at how the states and territories are progressing, when do you think, or when are you expected to see 70 per cent of the country vaccinated?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. Look, so my job is to make sure that everyone in Australia who wants to get a vaccine this year has the opportunity to do so, so we're working towards that. Public sentiment at the moment is really high. We're seeing around about 80 per cent of Australians indicating that they do intend to get vaccinated. We've got the supplying coming, we've got the distribution networks in place. So, I think we've got a really fantastic chance to get up to those really high vaccination rates this year.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

When do the booster shots arrive?

JOHN FREWEN:    

Yeah. Well the policy decisions around booster shots haven't been made yet, and again, I'd leave that to my Health colleagues. But the planning is already in place to have a booster regime ready and rolling next year.

ALLISON LANGDON:      

Alright. Lieutenant General, we'll always appreciate your time, and it is a very big job, what you've got on your hands, so we appreciate it. Thank you.

JOHN FREWEN:    

Thanks, Ally. Great to talk.

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