The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
14 October 2021
INTERVIEW WITH KARL STEFANOVIC AND ALLISON LANGDON
THE TODAY SHOW
Topics: Pfizer for children, Booster shots, QLD travel exemption.
Children as young five could soon be rolling up their sleeves for a COVID jab with Pfizer a step closer to being approved for kids under 12.
We’re joined now by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, in Victoria. Good morning to you, thanks for your time. This is big news. How soon might it happen?
Good morning. So the TGA, or the Therapeutic Goods Administration, our medical regulator, has granted what’s called provisional determination. It means that Pfizer can bring forward an application as rapidly as possible, which will be assessed quickly.
We are expecting them to bring that forward in the coming weeks. I’ve been speaking with their Australian CEO last week and this week. The TGA will assess it quickly. I won’t put a time frame. And then the advisory body, ATAGI, will make a decision.
So a double green light. If we get that, we are ready to start immediately. We have the doses. We have the availability. We have the system. And we’re well over 57 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds that have had the dose already, and so that system just rolls on.
Alright. So that could happen pretty quickly. Also this morning, is local production of AstraZeneca being suspended? CSL says it’s going to continue manufacturing the jab next year. We’re hearing it might stop before Christmas?
No, that’s not correct. I’ve spoken with the chair of CSL today and I’ve been in contact with the Australian CEO of AstraZeneca today. They’re going to complete their contract; they’re doing a fantastic job.
We’ve had, in Australia so far, 12.5 million doses of AstraZeneca that have been delivered into arms or 6.8 million people approximately have had a first dose and 5.7 million second doses.
So it’s coming off the production line. They’re continuing on. The chair of CSL, Brian McNamee, said they’re on track, completely committed to completing their contract and delivering their 50 million doses, and all the spare ones, we’re sharing them with the region.
You know, for example, Fiji’s program was very strongly based off Australia’s AstraZeneca. They had a big outbreak, it’s made a massive difference, whether it’s Indonesia, whether it’s Vietnam, whether it’s our Pacific neighbours, Papua New Guinea, we’re helping all of them and these 50 million AstraZeneca doses are supporting Australians, but they’re supporting the region.
There was talk in the last couple of days about booster shots and ramping up. When might that happen? Are you looking at January?
So we’ve started booster shots for the immunocompromised and I’ve had wonderful messages from people in the last few days that have already received their shots.
The next thing now, the group I mentioned before, the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or ATAGI, they’re reviewing the international data. We’re expecting advice from them before the end of October.
And then they’ll provide the answers to two questions, should we have boosters, and all our expectation is that that will be a yes for the nation. And then secondly, how long is the gap between your second dose and your third dose?
And I won’t, sort of, pre-empt that but, again, we have all of the supply we need. We are roughly doing 300,000 doses a day at the moment. At some stage, that will start to scale down after enough people have had their second doses.
But it’s still going strong and so we just keep the system going. So we’re ready to implement the boosters, just as we are with the five to 11-year-olds as soon as the medical advice says now is the time.
I wonder how that take-up will be. Does that concern you that there may be, you know, a little bit of lethargy in the community after the second dose?
No, I think people are very motivated. They recognise that it protects themselves and it protects everybody else. I mean, just look at what’s happening at the moment. We’re at over 83 per cent first doses.
The second doses are coming in at a per cent a day, or 300,000, or two million a week. You know, we’re over 300,000 a day, over two million a week at this point for the seven-day average.
And that’s beyond what virtually any of the commentators thought was possible, it’s what I said back in June. And we’re doing it. And we are now at one of the highest rates in the world with one of the lowest rates of loss of life and one of the best economic outcomes.
Minister, I know that you saw our story yesterday with Fabio Silveira; his six-year-old son Lenny, as you know, has cerebral palsy. He had to go to the States for an operation, for a brain surgery. He’s been stuck in a Sydney hotel.
Now, I know you played a role in this yesterday in getting him home to Queensland. Do you have an update? Have you found out yet or spoken to the family when they will actually be arriving home?
Yes. So firstly, thank you to you guys. You put it on our radar. It was a matter between Queensland and the family, or the Queensland Government and the family.
Good news, Lenny is going home today. So Little Wings, which is an amazing charitable air flight organisation, it’s had support from us but if you are watching, if you want to support a good group, Little Wings.
Little Wings are due to fly Lenny from Bankstown and Fabio, his dad, this afternoon back to the Sunshine Coast. He will be able to quarantine at home.
Yes, we had to have a battle with the Queensland Government to get this humanitarian approval. But we were successful. Frankly, your report yesterday helped open the door and then we did our bit with writing, correspondence, engagement, and, you know, so Lenny is going home.
He has had this surgery and he has cerebral palsy. Dad, Fabio, says that it was successful but what he needs now in order to get his strength back is intense physio. And that’s why being able to quarantine at home with his older sister, who is eight, and his older brother, who is 11, and mum and dad, is why it’s so important.
He chose his parents well, little Lenny.
Yeah, didn’t he?
Yeah, he did.
Minister, well done.
Very good result yesterday.
Thanks for being with us today. We appreciate it.