Date published: 
6 October 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

Well, Australia will today hit a major vaccine milestone, with 80 per cent of the population aged 16 and over receiving at least one dose. But the rollout in some states is lagging far behind others by a long way.

Lieutenant General John Frewen heads the COVID Vaccination Taskforce, and he joins us now live from Canberra. Lieutenant General, great to see you again this morning's big number, isn't it? 80 per cent? You must be pumped.

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah. It's great news, Karl. You know, I'm just really appreciative of all those people who've come forward to get vaccinated, but as you've alluded to, that's a national number, and there are areas where vaccine rates still lagging a bit behind. So, I'm still- still keen to see as many people as possible come forward.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

We'll climb to that in a second. But how much of a worry is it for you to see some of these- these vaccination rates slowing as we near to the finish line? The longer we go, the harder it is to finish off?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah, well, I've- I've been saying that for a while, that overseas experience tells us that you do really have to sort of work hard from here on in. There is certainly pockets. We're watching very carefully, we're working with state territorial authorities on a range of those to try and figure out the best way to keep people coming forward.

We think at the moment it's still is choice and convenience and understanding that it's vaccinations that gets us to the freedoms that we want.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

I mean, I guess that the concern is that if you open up 70 per cent there are be some people out there in that last 10 to 15 per cent, who haven't even had a first dose yet, who are going to go: why bother? I don't even need to bother to do that, right?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah. But, you know, it's really important the- these rates of 70 to 80 per cent nationally sort of give us a level of protection. But you know, for individuals, the risk of individuals is only mitigated by being vaccinated themselves. And then, of course, that helps with resisting spread further.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

You can't be clearer, Lieutenant General, in your messaging and health authorities' messaging to WA and Queensland, and yet they're still a long way behind. What do you put that down to and how are you going to fix it?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah, look, there is- there's certainly an element of complacency in those places because they haven't had the major outbreaks. I think, you know, Brisbane's had a couple of scares now, so I think people have a better understanding there. But, you know, for much of WA it's just been, you know, life is as normal for many, many people there but I just implore them that, you know, this vaccination is- it's so effective. We've seen it in the rates of hospitalisations and even deaths.

So, you know, if we make the assumption that Delta eventually finds its way across the entire land, that now is the time to get vaccinated then, because you need that a couple of weeks between second dose to get the full effect. So, you know, I'd really say to people, you know, think really hard about that choice. And it's getting so easy to get vaccinated now. We've got almost 10,000 points of presence. We've got mRNA vaccine, Moderna, coming through pharmacies. I mean, there's so many ways to get vaccinated now, it just doesn't make sense to me to wait.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

Agreed. All right. So, we've got a situation now too where a lot of people have had their second dose; they're still in lockdown, waiting to get out of lockdown and yet, now we're talking about the booster shots. When do the booster shots roll in? What's the thought process on that, when they'll roll out?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah. So, look, the Department of Health are working the policies around that. You know, the time will come, perhaps for third doses for those with, you know, immuno issues, then the booster program will come as well. But right now, it's really still about getting first and second dose into people across the nation. So, I'm firmly fixed on that task.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

Timeline- timeline on that booster shot though?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Oh look, the- the policy and strategy is being worked at the moment, Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

Okay.

JOHN FREWEN:                   

It's- we may see it towards the end of the year, but otherwise it will certainly be in the new year, and the in the vaccines have been purchased for that. So, it will come, and hopefully, it'll seamlessly roll from the actual vaccination program into business-as-usual flu shot type, you know, booster program.

KARL STEFANOVIC:             

Okay, done. Lieutenant General, appreciate your time as always, working hard.

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