The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
23 May 2021
Topics: COVID-19 Update, Roadmap Out, Aged Care Funding
Good afternoon. I am pleased to be able to provide an update on progress with regards both to the national COVID vaccination program and also our case control across the country. There have been zero cases of community transmission right across Australia for the last week.
There has also been a record number of vaccinations in Australia for the last week. Already, six days in, we have a weekly record. And for the first time, vaccinations this week will pass the half a million mark.
In particular, I’ll just begin with cases, Australia has had zero cases, not just for the day, but for the entire week, which is just a testament to the work of the border control and the entire community in maintaining COVID safe practices.
At the same time, the world has seen 575,000 cases, and sadly 11,300 deaths in the last 24 hours alone. A year today, the world has had 83.8 million cases, which is more than all of 2020 combined.
Already agonisingly over 1.6 million lives lost officially, and we’ve seen the World Health Organization in the last few days indicate that the likely real global loss of life is between two and three times higher than that which has been officially recorded.
In terms of tests, it’s worth noting that we’ve had 17.85 million tests, including I think a stand-out, 33,000 tests on a Saturday when there have been no cases. So, Australians are continuing to come forward. Please keep coming forward for COVID-19 tests. It can help protect you and help protect your family and help protect everyone else.
And that’s the same with vaccinations. What we have seen is 37,469 vaccinations in the last 24 hours on a Saturday, a record Saturday figure.
Significantly, this week on the first six days we’ve had 499,827 vaccinations, so we will pass the half a million vaccinations for the week for the first time. That 499,000 for the first six days compares with 436,916 vaccinations for the entire previous week.
Our national total is approximately 3.6 million vaccinations, which have been completed. That’s precisely 3,599,964, but there will have been at least six vaccinations since nine this morning.
And the states have provided 1.268 million vaccinations, and the Commonwealth 2.33 million vaccinations. Everybody is pitching in.
I particularly want to acknowledge that our GPs who are the backbone of the national vaccination program have passed two million vaccinations, and that’s an enormous achievement from over the 4,000 general practices around the nation.
In addition, there is another very important development, and that is we now have over 1.4 million over 70s that have been vaccinated. 48 per cent of the over 70 population have had at least a first dose right across Australia, so that is very heartening and we would urge everybody over 50, everybody over 70 to please keep coming forward.
Vaccination now can save your life. As the Chief Medical Officer has indicated, with winter coming, we want everybody to be vaccinated as early as possible.
I would just add a couple of additional things. In terms of aged care, we have now had 4,122 facilities visited with either first or second doses, and that includes 94 per cent of facilities have had first doses administered, and that program is now highly advanced and the first doses are nearing completion.
I’m happy to take any questions, I think I will start, looking at the list, with Claire.
Thanks, Minister, for the update. Just following the kind of continued focus on the fact that mRNA vaccines will be in plentiful supply by the back end of this year, what’s your message specifically to those over 50 currently able to get AstraZeneca vaccine now? There is obviously a lot of confusion around your comments last week. What’s your preferred advice, I guess, for that age group to take in?
And as well, if I can, what is the latest on when we might expect GPs and other clinics to be able to have even more doses to give out, given that CSL are now producing more than a million AstraZeneca jabs a week?
Sure. So, the message is very simple. Do not wait to be vaccinated. If you are in a qualifying group, if you’re in the over 50s, please come forward now. That has been our position, that is our position, and that will be our position.
It’s been reaffirmed in the medical advice from ATAGI, the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, and from the Chief Medical Officer only today. Do not wait. And in particular that was advice from the Chief Medical Officer to general practices around the country, that we want to encourage as many people to be vaccinated as early as possible.
If you are over 50, please keep coming forward, that is exactly what has happened in the last week, as two things have occurred. Supply has increased, exactly as you say, Claire, and that has allowed a doubling and tripling of doses to GPs, and at the same time it has opened up, only this week, for over 50s across the country.
And they have come forward, and we have 48 per cent of over 70s, but we want to drive that to be as high as possible. Vaccination can save lives and protect lives, and if you aren’t vaccinated and you do catch COVID, you could die. It’s as simple as that.
Then in terms of supply going forwards, obviously, we have increased the supply very significantly, and as we have certainty, we will continue to increase supply, and I think that that’s the program.
We always have to maintain contingency; we have to make sure that we have contingency against forward projections. We know that at some stage in the coming weeks, in week 17, CSL will be doing some line maintenance so we have had to provision for that.
And so, we have done that. So, we have contingency, we have provision, and within the available doses, all of that is being provided to general practices, so the capacity exists, subject to this week’s doses being confirmed in the next 48 hours, to further increase supplies to GPs again. But that has increased the vaccination rate above half a million for this week for the first time.
Yeah, thanks Minister. I wanted to ask an aged care question if I could.
Labor’s Clare O’Neil said this morning she had concerns that the $10 a day extra payment you announced in the Budget may be pocketed by providers. How will that be enforced that providers are using that money for care? Like, will there be spot checks by regulators? And what action will be taken if providers aren’t spending that money in the way that you are hoping or expecting them to?
Sure. So, I’m a little bit surprised that Labor hasn’t actually read the materials, which set out the fact very clearly that there has to be reporting on standards. And so, you cannot be paid unless you are reporting and meeting the standards in relation to the $10 a day uplift.
It was a recommendation of the Royal Commission and it is being implemented in terms of the Royal Commission. I will read precisely the terms which the Commonwealth announced on Budget night: To commence receiving the new government basic daily fee supplement, that’s the $10 a day, providers will need to report on the adequacy of daily living services such as food, linen, and cleaning; they provide with a particular focus on nutrition.
This quality reporting will support the star system. So, if they don’t meet the standards, if they don’t do the reporting, they won’t be paid. That’s in black and white and it was there on Budget night. And one of those things where I think they forgot to read the materials. Olivia?
Thank you. Can you commit to publicly releasing Phil Gaetjens’ roadmap to reopening our borders when it’s ready? (INAUDIBLE) And just a second question, are you able to give us an update of vaccination rates for Australians with a disability?
Sure. So in terms of the roadmap, that has always been intended to be a National Cabinet document, and publicly available document. It’s a matter for a National Cabinet, but all of the intention has been that the roadmap will be publicly available, subject to National Cabinet, of which I am not a member, but that’s certainly our view as a Commonwealth.
Secondly, in relation to disability, we have, as I said on Monday, been doing a reconciliation. So there are four pillars by which we are vaccinating people in disability. One is the in-reach by providers, two is through general practice through in-reach, three is through outreach or people visiting their GP, which many people do prefer to visit their own GP, and four is visiting a state or Commonwealth Pfizer clinics for those who are under 50.
The reconciliation so far indicates that there are now over 4,000 people who are disability residents who have been vaccinated. Commodore Young will provide a further update tomorrow, but that number is significantly increased with the number that was at hand on Monday, and it is likely to increase again. Thank you. Rob.
Hi, g’day, Minister. Rob Harris from the SMH. I just wanted to ask about over 50s who opt against taking the AstraZeneca and may decide they want Pfizer or Moderna. How will they be prioritised when their time comes? And when will their time likely come?
So the first thing is, we do not want anybody to wait. Do not wait to be vaccinated. If you are eligible, please come forward. If you are not vaccinated and you catch COVID, you could die. It’s as simple as that.
That advice has been reaffirmed by both ATAGI, the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and the Chief Medical Officer again today, particularly to general practices.
The advice and timing will follow in terms of further vaccination rounds. We’ll follow the conditions for which any individual vaccine is determined by ATAGI. So ATAGI will determine the age groups and we’ll make them available in the time that we have supplied to all of the age groups that ATAGI determines.
So that’s a decision for them. But we’ve said over the course of the year that we will have 50 million AstraZeneca vaccines available from production in Australia. There’s 3.8 million on order from overseas, of which 700,000 have arrived.
We will have access to 51 million Novavax in the latter part of the year, subject to supply. From Pfizer, 40 million vaccines heavily weighted towards the last quarter are contracted, and again subject to supply. They will be made available on a whole of population basis, as we’ve said, since the very day we announced it.
And in addition to that 25 million Moderna, of which 10 million will be available this year, 15 million next year, but that is primarily as we’ve said, as a backup if there were a supply issue with one of the others, or if it’s required for a variant booster next year.
So in addition, there’s 25.5 million COVAX vaccines. The answer is very simple. Do not wait. And ATAGI will determine the age groups and supply will determine the timing. And if you do wait, you put yourself and your family at risk.
So, then Tom McIlroy?
Thanks a lot, Minister. Last week, business leaders, including Innes Willox from the AI Group said that a firm reopening date would act as a strong incentive for people to get vaccinated and perhaps the lack of a firm date, it will lead into complacency among Australians. What do you make of that argument? What are business leaders telling you about reopening and the rollout?
The strongest reason to be vaccinated is to protect your life and to protect the lives of every other Australian. It’s one of those things where any one person’s vaccination not only protects them, but it helps protect every other Australian.
But we’ve always said that this is an important part in our capacity to allow more Australians to travel and to allow more people to enter Australia. And so we’re working very constructively with business on that front. We’re engaging consistently, but the strongest possible reason to be vaccinated is to save your life and to save the lives of others.
So look, on that, I’ll thank everybody and make the simple point that this week, we’ve had zero cases of COVID-19 community transmission Australia wide. We’ve also had record vaccinations and we will pass the half a million mark for the first time.
There’s an increasing number of Australians coming forward. But please, do not wait. Keep coming forward. The more people who are vaccinated, the earlier they’re vaccinated, the more we’re protected as a nation. Take care.