Date published: 
19 January 2022
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:           

Well, let's bring in Lieutenant General John Frewen who heads the COVID Vaccination Taskforce and joins us now in Canberra. Lieutenant General, thank you so much for your time this morning. Just listening to what Karl was saying there, do you think that is a possibility, that the Defence could be brought in to help on the frontline with our hospitals?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Look, the support is clearly needed. Where the support comes from will be a matter for others, Ali. But, you know, I just will- there are fewer than a thousand nurses in the ADF, so the ADF are good at helping in very specific circumstances but there's a big challenge there that needs a comprehensive response.

ALLISON LANGDON:           

Okay. So even if- what you're saying is even if the Defence is brought in, it's not going to plug those holes that they're facing at the moment with staffing issues. Look, as you know, Australia had its deadliest day yesterday, and most of those who passed away had not had their third shot. When you then hear that there were 70,000 appointments that went to waste in New South Wales alone last week, do you have any idea of why this is happening? Is there a reluctance? Is there a hesitancy to get this third jab?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Look, Ali, people have been coming forward in droves for both boosters and the kids have been coming forward, the five to 11-year-olds, in really good numbers. You know, we're now doing more than 300,000 doses a day. We're back up to 2 million doses in a week, which is where we were at the height of the rollout. So people are coming forward. 250,000 Australians every day are getting their boosters. We're up over 5.3 million Australians have had their boosters. We've got more than 380,000 kids have come through as well. So people are coming through, but the message that we've been saying is there is capacity in the system for people to come forward. We're encouraging people to come forward. I think there have been some challenges in the system with bookings. I think some people have been shopping around to get bookings, and then maybe when they've got a better booking they haven't gone back and cancelled some of the other bookings. I think some people have had bookings in place and may have contracted COVID and now can't go along for their bookings. So again, it would be great if people cancel their bookings. But the message is there are bookings available every week, every day, and people we really need to come forward as quickly as they can.

ALLISON LANGDON:           

Alright. Well, that gives- that's a great explanation there for why those appointments are going to waste. We are also hearing, though, there's still huge supply issues when it comes to vaccines at GP clinics. What's being done to fix that?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah, no- well, again, there are more than enough vaccines. The vaccines are around the country, there are 10 million doses of mRNA vaccines on the shelves in GPs and pharmacists and in state and territory clinics now. We did have a distribution challenge over Christmas. You would appreciate lots of things going on, Omicron was hitting, you know, we've been trying to get vaccines around the country to do boosters, we've been getting the vaccines around the country to do the kids, and I really do thank everyone in the distribution network who've worked so hard over Christmas. But the numbers show that the vaccines are getting into people's arms and people are coming forward. And, again, any GPs or pharmacists who might still be having challenges, please contact the Vaccine Operation Centre. The vaccines are out there and we'll work to get them to them as quickly as possible.

ALLISON LANGDON:           

Alright. So is there any understanding then- because there are certain GPs who are saying, look, they could do a whole lot more and they can't get their hands on it. So how is it, if the supply is there, the demand is there, that that's not sort of marrying up?

JOHN FREWEN:                   

Yeah, okay. Look, so- we've got- there's more than 10,000 places across the country that are doing vaccinations at the moment. There's more than 6000 of       those that are doing kids right now. We've made sure that the vaccines have gone across the country in an equitable way. Now, so you might have in one area, there might just be one GP. We make sure that GP gets enough to service that local area. In another area there might be 20 GPs, and we've spread comparable amounts but- across that whole network, so people can go to their own GPs and the like. So I've no doubt there are facilities who think they could potentially do more, but the way we've done the distribution is to make sure that all Australians can get to either their own health provider or a provide nearby.

ALLISON LANGDON:           

Okay. Really good to clarify some of those issues, Lieutenant General, thank you so much for your time this morning.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID33691, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Flieutenant-general-john-frewens-interview-on-today-channel-nine-on-19-january-2022)

View contact