Lieutenant General John Frewen's opening statement, Senate Select Committee, 2 February 2022

Read the transcript of Lieutenant General John Frewen's opening statement to the Senate Select Committee.

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Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to make a brief opening statement.

I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respect to elders past and present.

I am pleased to report that the national vaccination program has continued to make significant progress since I last appeared before this Committee.

We have started 2022 in a strong position. Australia is now over 90% fully vaccinated and we are one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. 95.6% of Australians aged 16 years and older have now received a first dose of a vaccination and 93.5% are fully vaccinated.

All states and territories have now reached 80% fully vaccinated and 90% first dose.

We have the 8th highest vaccination rate in the OECD and continue to see progress.
Our vaccination rates are higher than our closest neighbours, including New Zealand, and ahead of many other advanced economies, Italy, France and the United States to name a few.
Our booster program is also performing very strongly.

Over 8 million Australians have already received their booster – which is more than 50% of the eligible population, noting that around 4 million, or half of those yet to receive a booster, only became eligible this week.

Our vaccination program has demonstrated that it can withstand shocks and challenges as we have quickly responded to the unexpected threat of the Omicron variant.
With over 151 million doses ordered, we have the resources needed to respond to our current and future challenges.

In the month of January, the vaccination program delivered over double the number of doses as the month of December – up from 3.4 million to 7.2 million.

I want to thank our Vaccine Operations Centre including the Urgent Supply Squad that supported transfers and deliveries to meet vaccine demand over the holiday period.

I also want to thank our logistics partners, and the hard working teams in warehouses, driving trucks and managing supply who ensured vaccines were delivered where they needed to be, across the Christmas and New Year period.

More than 18 million booster doses were in fridges or delivered to sites by the end of January 2022, including record delivery weeks. This ensured there was more than enough vaccines for those who came forward.

On 20 January, the program achieved a record high point, with 353,190 doses administered into arms in a single day.

There are more than 10,000 points of presence across Australia where you can take up your vaccination.

Commonwealth channels, including GPs and pharmacies, delivered over 70% of vaccinations in January, up on their overall program rate which is averaging 62%.

Thank you to the GPs, pharmacists, nurses and vaccine providers that continued to work over the holiday period to ensure these record vaccination rates, and our strong protection against COVID was maintained, even if it meant sacrificing time with your friends and family over the holiday period.

Over two thirds of Australia’s over 70 population has received a booster and I hope to see more Australians of all ages coming forward to protect themselves, their family and their community.

Efforts to provide boosters to Residential Aged Care Facilities and Shared Disability Accommodation sites have been our highest priorities. We are continuing our work to make sure residents in these sites have the opportunity to get a booster and maintain their protection from COVID.

99% of Residential Aged Care Facilities have received a booster clinic with the remaining small number delayed due to factors such as COVID outbreaks and scheduled to receive one in the coming days. Second visits will also be offered to sites.

Over 1,780 disability sites have been completed and over 1,630 sites are scheduled for a booster clinic shortly. New data on NDIS participants vaccination rates is now being published, and I acknowledge the support of the Disability Advisory Group in guiding this next step in our efforts to provide transparency and accountability to the vaccine program.

We have also seen a positive start to our vaccination program for children.
Following on from our 12 to 15 year old vaccination rate, which is now 83.7% first dose, and 76.7% fully vaccinated, Australia was in the top few dozen countries to commence its children’s vaccination program.

Over 40% of children aged 5 to 11 year old have received a vaccination. This is faster than the vaccination rates of the same group in countries like the United States, Germany and Israel.

There was sufficient supply across vaccination sites last month to offer all children a first dose by the end of January, ensuring children have the opportunity to be protected to return to school.

A communications campaign has been developed to support this rollout and we encourage parents to come forward and book appointments for their children.

We have also made good progress in reducing the gap in vaccination rates for Indigenous Australians, with 81.8% of Indigenous Australians receiving a first dose and 75.8 fully vaccinated. The gap in vaccination rate has closed by more than 12 percentage points during the implementation of our Accelerating Indigenous Vaccinations Plan, since mid-September last year.

The success in each of these areas has been a result of the partnerships that have been developed across the program, and I thank everyone who has worked with the vaccine program and will continue to work with us over the months ahead.

I continue to strongly encourage people to continue coming forward for their booster. There is more than enough supply, more than enough sites and bookings available for you to get your booster protection.

Thank you again for the opportunity to make this statement and I look forward to your questions.


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