Topics: Phase 1B rollout, AstraZeneca doses held up in Europe.
Queensland now has more active coronavirus cases than in anywhere else in Australia. There are 67 active cases here and half are returned travellers from PNG.
But we shouldn’t feel discouraged. In the first month of the vaccine rollout, Queensland Health has vaccinated 38,000 people so far. And the locally made AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved for use here in Australia. That is very good news.
And I’m joined now by the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, thanks for being on 4BC Drive.
Oh, an absolute pleasure.
Now, how big an announcement is this? How important is this to see the TGA say: yep, the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine is good to go?
Look, it’s incredibly important. There are 50 million doses that will now become available progressively over the coming months. Already 830,000 doses have been released today.
So they’ve approved the process and the manufacturing plant, and then progressively and continuously they test and approve what are called the batches.
Just as an example, we started small with just over 20,000 doses in the first week. Last week, our goal was 80,000, but we did 116,000.
But in the last two days, as we’ve started to move to the large vaccination programs through the general practises, and this is what the CSL doses will allow, we’ve done 30,000, and then 46,000 Australians vaccinated in a single day. And that’s just tremendous news and expanding massively.
Well, there has been some concerns regarding how the rollout through the GP clinics has been going.
Obviously, with Phase 1B out there, what’s the latest from that? Is that ramping up? Is that becoming more reliable? Are the waiting lists for that 1B phase reducing?
It only started two days ago, so what we’ve seen is that we’ve had 30,000 people vaccinated on Monday, and 46,000 people yesterday. These are in excess of our expectations. So I’m really delighted with that.
And to put it very simply, there are six million people in Phase 1B. In the first week, we’re hopeful that 250,000 might have vaccines through the different programs. And that’s a very, very good sign already.
And so we’ve got more to travel and everybody needs to be patient. And the Australian public have been fantastic.
But when you see that acceleration from just over 20,000 in the first week to more than double that in a single day, this notion of giving people access through their GPs, starting with 1000 this week, growing to over 4000 by the end of April, that’s clearly the way to do it.
In terms of the approval by the TGA, the locally produced AstraZeneca jab, does that mean we don’t have to rely now on those imports from Europe, the ones that have been held up, because of concerns over there about running out of AstraZeneca in Europe?
So we haven’t factored those into our accounts, as it were, our forward projections. 3.1 million have been held back, and that’s true, that’s made it a little more difficult. But that’s an honest assessment of the global challenge.
The supply chain collapsed for a period of time for that particular company. And then you have the diplomatic issues where some of the European states are seeking to hold them back, one in particular.
Anyway, we get on with it as a country. We made the decision in August, the Prime Minister, and myself, and the National Security Committee to go with the sovereign vaccine manufacturing. It was a really difficult decision, because many thought it was impossible, and yet we did it.
And what that does is it gives us massive security. We’re also getting good volumes of the Pfizer vaccine through. Over 150,000 just landed in Australia. So that’s, I think, great news for everybody.
So we don’t have to worry about those vaccines being held up in Europe anymore? We shouldn’t worry about that at all, even if they don’t get released?
Look, we’d obviously like to secure everything, but we’re trying to get a million of those made available for PNG. And I think it would be deeply disappointing if a humanitarian emergency in a developing country wasn’t acknowledged. And so we’ll just keep fighting.
But we’ve got the 50 million for here. All up, we’ve got more than enough for three times the Australian population. So we’re in a very strong situation. And we now work to the supply, we roll those vaccines out.
And to see 46,000 vaccinations in a single day I think just reaffirms that general practise coupled with state clinics, coupled with Commonwealth clinics, that’s a pretty good pathway for the Australian population.
Now you mentioned those GP clinics. A thousand in the first week, ramping up the 4000 by the end of April. We’ve also been hearing about mass vaccination clinics. How would they work?
So this has always been part of it. That the states, if they so choose, because they’ll have significant volumes of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer, will be able to use those mass vaccination clinics. We’d encourage them to do that. They might do them a smaller or larger.
For example, the exhibition buildings in my home state of Victoria, our capital city of Melbourne, that’s already been set up. And that gives them a particular way to do it. But all the medical advice is in a country which has small towns, distributed population, we already have the general practise network.
So that’s the foundation or the backbone of our vaccination program. But this also allows for health workers or other people to be done quickly or some of the younger population later on. And right now, it’s vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.
Alright, Minister. Appreciate you being on 4BC Drive this afternoon.
Take care, everyone.