The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
3 September 2021
INTERVIEW WITH JIM WILSON
Topics: UK Pfizer dose sharing arrangement; vaccinating children under 12; rapid antigen testing
Well, a major announcement this afternoon by the Federal Government. Very exciting news, this, they’ve secured another four million Pfizer doses in a swap deal with the UK.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me on the line. Minister, welcome back to Drive and well done on this.
It’s a pleasure. Look, this is a fantastic outcome for Australia. What it means is we’ll have nine million Pfizer in September, we’ll have more than 10 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna together, and then, very significantly, with AstraZeneca, we passed the 10 million dose mark today.
What it means is that everybody can come forward, give themselves a chance to be vaccinated, and we’ve passed 80 per cent of the over-50s that have been vaccinated. So we’re on the path. We’re on the way there.
As far as the Pfizer doses go, Minister, who will be getting them? Is it anyone between the age of 12 and 60?
Correct. And so the Pfizer will be available for everybody 12 to 60. We’re very hopeful to get a decision on Moderna as well, which would then cover up the 12 to 60 as well.
And we’re in a position where, over the coming weeks, we’ll be able to make sure that everybody in that age group has access. And our over-60s, fantastic, 84 per cent. Our over-70s, even better, 88 per cent. So these figures, they sound like they’re a lot, but each one is an individual that is stepping forward to protect themselves and their community.
You were very strong in your criticism yesterday of Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Premier, and her border policy. You called it a profound moral failure, and you’re spot on with this.
I just cannot believe a democratically elected politician in Australia would lock their own people out of their state, but throw the doors open to international cricketers, and the wives and partners of NRL players. It beggars belief, Minister.
Well look, these are beautiful young children or patients with cancer, or families that have been separated. You know, there are people who are desperate to get back to their loved ones. It could be weddings, it could be funerals, it could be birth and there are children and parents who are separated, kids in boarding schools.
There are so many individual stories. There were people who will have been returning home from, seniors that have been on their drive around the country and they just on the wrong side of the border in the campervan.
All of these things are human stories, and we have to find a way home. Home quarantine is something that’s well established, and people are incredibly compliant.
Just as far as the fear campaign around children as a political pawn by the Queensland Premier. Now, she wants those under the age of 12 vaccinated before she opens the border, even though there’s not one country, Minister, in the world doing widespread vaccination of kids that young.
It’s terribly irresponsible governing, isn’t it Minister, as far as the Queensland Premier? It’s sending the wrong message to the community.
Well, there are two things here. One is the idea that any political leader would impose an untested, untried, untrialed vaccine on our youngest people, it’s almost beyond comprehension.
Secondly, the implication that it’s available, when exactly as you say, no country is vaccinating under-12s, because no vaccine has been approved for under-12s.
Now, we happen to have had the foresight to secure whole of population supply. We have 60 million Pfizer for next year. We have 15 million Moderna for next year, we have 51 million Novavax. So we’re covered under every circumstance if there are paediatric vaccines.
But no one anywhere is vaccinating under-12s in any national programme, because no vaccine has been approved. And to hold an entire state or even an entire nation at bay whilst waiting for something which hasn’t been approved is deeply troubling.
Before I let you go, your team’s quoted in The Daily Telegraph article today throwing your strong support behind rapid antigen testing at home. Have you told the TGA Minister to cut the red tape and fast track these approvals?
They are doing this, they’ve actually approved 28 rapid antigen tests, and that’s obviously under medical supervision. But 28 tests are out there.
The next thing is to move to the home front. We haven’t had the support of the state chief health officers through what’s known as the medical expert panel, or the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee yet.
But I am hopeful they will support it, and in the meantime the TGA is getting on with the job of just approving more and more tests.
So how long before we see them in homes, do you think, Minister?
I think that will be a matter for the state chief health officers, because at this point, they’ve wanted to rely on what are called the polymer chain reaction or PCR tests. These are the ones that everybody knows. They’ve all been testing station, 32 million tests in Australia.
So I’m hopeful that we’ll have them at the earliest possible time. But they’re already being used by us in aged care homes, on departure from overseas in India. We were using them in Howard Springs in the Northern Territory when we had clinical control.
So it’s something that we’re used to using. They play an important role, and they’ll play an increasingly important role.
Thank you for your time, as always, and well done on securing that additional four million Pfizer doses in that swap deal with the UK, and have a good weekend. Thank you, Minister.
Thanks, Jim. Take care.
Good on you. That’s Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.