The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
13 August 2021
INTERVIEW WITH JIM WILSON
Topics: Vaccine rollout
Now, the Prime Minister is speaking at a media briefing this afternoon and we’ll bring you any developments following that media conference with the Prime Minister after National Cabinet.
In the meantime, I want to bring in Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to the program. Minister, welcome back to Drive.
And good afternoon, Jim.
Gee, those numbers are good. I feel like, this week, we’ve genuinely turned a corner on the vaccine rollout front.
Well, it has absolutely been a week where Australians have stepped forward and the demand and the supplies have met.
So, as you say, over 270,000 Australians, more than Geelong in my home state in one day, almost- well, more than the adult population of Wollongong, and in the last two days, more than the population of Newcastle.
And in fact, we’ve just done, on the figures received just before joining you, over a million people in four days, 1,024,000.
And what does it all mean? It means Australians are being protected. We’re at 14.75 million doses so far, and each week now, we’re travelling at over 1.4 million doses. So a million in in four days, 1.4 million when you take into account the weekends.
So these are really important developments that shows that the system is capable of delivering massive volumes by being able to bring forward the 3 million additional Pfizer that’s helping, everywhere, Australians to be vaccinated, but particularly, it’s hope for people in Sydney and New South Wales.
You’d think by the end of August that we should be able to get to 50 per cent of the eligible population of Australia having at least one jab.
I’d say, oh, absolutely no question, I would say, looking at this, it’s probably, you know, seven to nine days away. Might be a little bit earlier, but I’ll be conservative.
You know, at this stage, we’ve just hit 46.6 per cent so I can update on the figures that you’d been given. And so we’re very nearly there now. It’s increasing on weekdays by, let’s call it half a per cent, sometimes a tiny bit more, but half a per cent on weekdays. And over the course of a weekend, close to half a per cent.
So it’s really moving forwards. But half a per cent of Australians is, you know, more than 100,000 first doses and more than 100,000 second doses. So both those numbers are climbing, and that just means more protection for more people.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has set a target of six million doses by the end of this month in New South Wales. As of today, we’re at 4.7 million. Minister, are you confident that New South Wales can hit that mark come 28 August?
Look, I’m very confident that by the end of the month, I wouldn’t try to put a particular day one way or another.
But by the end of the month, yeah.
By the end of the month. I think that that was very realistic and very- it was ambitious but realistic. And on balance, I think it is likely to be achieved.
And just today, I mean, technically, New South Wales will tick over 50 per cent first doses tomorrow. As of today, it’s at 49.96 per cent. So to think half the state has now had a vaccination amongst the 16 plus, that’s an extraordinary achievement.
And all the things that are happening, you know, the great challenge is the people who are listening, who are at home in lockdown or they may know somebody or have a family member who’s been infected, the results are radically different in terms of the lives saved as opposed to what we saw in the Victorian wave last year.
So, the vaccination is making a difference, but it will continue to make a difference. But all of you, you’ve been amazing so far. And each vaccine protects you, but it can also protect your mum or dad or your children. The whole family can be protected.
You announced the boost to the national vaccine rollout last week with the provisional approval of the Moderna vaccine for people over the age of 18.
Now, we know that that first million doses will go to pharmacists in the next month. How many pharmacies in New South Wales will get those doses of the Moderna vaccine?
So around the country, we’ll have about 3000, a little over 3000. New South Wales, 32 per cent of the population will have, basically a third of the pharmacists. They’ve not all completed their registration. So, probably over 900, and it might be- it might well be higher than that.
Okay. Can you tell me if the Moderna vaccine, Minister, will be available to anyone similar to the AstraZeneca jab, or will it be treated like the Pfizer vaccine, while supply is low?
So what we’ll see initially is something for the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to recommend. It’s been approved as a vaccine for everybody 18 plus, and then on the allocation, we’ll get that back from the Technical Advisory Group in the coming weeks.
But we’re looking at having this available from mid-September and the pathway from here is that we’ll open up in the coming weeks, probably at the end of the month, to the under 40s. It may start at 30 plus, but that’s a National Cabinet decision that’s being considered over the coming weeks.
And then that will ensure that we progressively go down to the 16 plus. And then, as I’ve always said, do not wait. If you’re over 60 for AstraZeneca or Moderna, please do not wait.
Yes, there’s whole of population, but I’ve said on many, many occasions, do not wait. And 82.6 per cent of the over 70s around the country and in New South Wales, 83.6 per cent of the over 70s have had at least the first dose, and more than half have had a second dose.
There’s a report in the Australian Financial Review today about the PM and your government absolutely trying to move heaven and earth to secure more Pfizer doses from across the globe.
Can you update us, have you had any luck as far as getting much needed supplies of Pfizer?
So, we were able to bring forward 3 million doses of Pfizer. That’s what’s allowed us this quarter to go from what would have been 600,000 doses a week to over a million. In fact, it was 1.2 million in this week.
So that’s yielded fruit for Australia. And that is literally what’s helping to drive the vaccine rate now. So, I mean, we do do it quietly. We work behind the scenes. And you can understand that if there are possibilities in some countries or in the Pfizer network, we don’t talk about it unless and until the vaccines arrive because it is a highly competitive environment.
But we’ve got 40 million Pfizer, 10 million Moderna, 50 million AstraZeneca – 51- 53.8 to be precise. We have 51 million Novavax coming. So the vaccine supplies are strong and clear.
What we are also seeing, though, now is the benefits of all of that quiet work, you know, leading to record vaccinations, you know, each week in Australia.
How long down the path will people be able to get booster shots? I know we’ve got to get jabs in arms, first and second jabs, and get people fully vaccinated, but how long before people can get booster shots?
So, no decision yet, but the preliminary medical advice is that it will be in the order of 12 months after your first jab. But it’s not a final decision.
And certainly we’re looking at all of the medical evidence around the world. The fortunate position Australia is in is that we not only have the 51 million Novavax that I mentioned that can either be used this year or next year, but we also have that we’ve acquired 60 million Pfizer for next year and 15 million Moderna over and above the numbers that are coming now.
So the supplies are very deep and strong. The expectation is that if a booster were required – and frankly, it’s far more likely than not on all the advice we have – it would be about a year after you had your vaccination.
I’m speaking with Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Now, I was joined by Dr Ken McCroary on the program yesterday, Minister. He’s a GP in Campbelltown in our south-west. And he revealed that the Federal Health website still had out-of-date ATAGI advice on the COVID-19 vaccine information in your language section.
I mean, this is a very multicultural community. There was something like 69 languages on that website. It’s a very good initiative. But way out of date with the information. I mean, that’s simply not good enough.
So that initial report was incorrect. In fact, all bar one language had been updated. And it’s a constant process.
As you say, there are over 60 languages. All bar one language had been updated as of Monday this week. And so it is a process of making sure that the information’s correct. It’s updated. And so it’s one of those ones where we’ve asked the organisation to please explain what was an incorrect report.
There was one language, I admit. It was Polish, in fact, which was due to be updated. And in fact, that’s the advice I have, is that that should be done.
But until Monday this week, it was way out of date, the information, according to Dr Ken McCroary. Are you saying that’s not the case?
The advice I have is that the languages had been progressively updated and that the story was overwhelmingly incorrect.
Right. Okay. But do you, what Dr McCroary was saying is that up until Monday, when this- when most of the languages were updated, the information was updated, but it took weeks and weeks and weeks with basically out-of-date information.
I mean, obviously, this is a concern. It shouldn’t be happening.
Well, we are updating as frequently as we possibly can. And the thing is that we’re providing advice in over 60 languages, as well as in English, as well as in all of these links to the state updates in the original language.
So, you know, it’s a constant process of information, updates, advertising on- in multiple languages on SBS. That material is updated regularly. So I think that process just ongoing, and we’re working on all the different fronts.
What is heartening is that we are seeing a real increase in vaccines, particularly amongst those of non-English-speaking background. They’re coming forward, the message is going out. And so I think that that’s the really significant thing.
And of course, wherever you are, if you’re eligible, please come forward to be vaccinated. But we know that extra vaccines are being pumped into the west and the south-west of Sydney through the GP network – our GPs, such as Ken, are absolute heroes – and that, you know, right across New South Wales, there’s an increase, and I think 160,000 vaccines in the last 24 hours in just New South Wales.
Minister, I know it’s been a very busy afternoon, and thank you very much for your time this afternoon.
That’s alright. We’ll get through it. And I do thank you for your message of hope.
I do think New South Wales is doing, you know, in the most difficult of circumstances, a huge and great job, but it’s the people in the medical workforce who are now stepping forward to be vaccinated and delivering the vaccines, that’s our special thanks.
Well, after a slow start, you know what? The vaccine rollout’s starting to gather some momentum, and that’s great.
And there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so well done to you and the team. Thanks for your time this afternoon.
Good on you, that’s Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.