The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
8 November 2021
INTERVIEW WITH RUSSEL HOWCROFT AND ROSS STEVENSON
Topics: Pfizer COVID booster shot in Australia
Well, the booster programme has lift-off. I was speaking to someone yesterday who’s a health care worker who’s well and truly due for their booster.
I think we’re being told six months, I thought I’d read in Israel, it’s five months. But Greg Hunt is the Federal Health Minister. Minister, good morning to you.
And good morning, guys.
How do we know the timing of our booster shot?
So, it’s six months from when you’ve had your second dose and we’ve already started even though the formal program commences today, 173,000 people have had a booster.
And so, we’re off to a flying start and that’s aged care and disability, health care workers and others who come forward. But if it’s been six months, you’re eligible and encouraged to go to your GP, a state clinic, or Commonwealth clinic.
So, Minister, you obviously know when I had my second dose. So, does that mean that you’ll be- well, as in the database know.
So will you be sending me an email or a text that says, hey, by the way, Russ, six month is, six months is in two weeks’ time, get an apt.
So, I think GPs are reaching out to people, and generally, people are very, very aware because of the downloading of the vaccine certificate of their own time. So, there are a variety of ways that people will either be informed or be encouraged to come forward.
And, you know, Australians have done a great job already. We’ve got up to 1.7 million people who will be eligible before Christmas and before the program’s begun formally, already 173,000 have come forward.
So, I think that’s great news.
I was reading that one of the reasons we’re doing so well in terms of case numbers at the moment, even though they are high-ish, but we’re doing reasonably well, is because the more recently you’ve had the vaccine, the more efficacious it is, and over time it starts to wear off.
Yes, so there- there is an impact where some of the transmission effect, or prevention, is lost. But the general prevention against serious illness, hospitalisation, and loss of life, remains very strong.
So, it’s a booster and the name is exactly right. It adds to the protection that we’ve got. But we’re now, with almost 90 per cent first vaccination, over 80 per cent double vaccination, one of the most highly vaccinated societies.
Exactly, as you say, one of the most recently vaccinated societies and now, after Israel, one of the first countries in the world to commence the booster program for a whole of nation. So we are really one of the best protected countries in the world.
So, Minister, another system question. So, when I have my booster, is the technology available to say, yes, I can see you’ve had one, I can see you’ve had two, and the system recognises the third, or does it drop off the first?
No, no. It goes on. We all have a vaccination record on our Medicare app, and so it will be added to that. It will show that you’ve had a third vaccination and you’ll have your own record which can show your first, your second, your third, in the same way that your flu or your kids, sort of, have had their national immunisation programme vaccines then.
Minister, I read, and I think it was underreported at the time, I think I read about three weeks ago, your Chief Health Officer said that if you’ve had two AstraZenecas, which is me and Russel here.
Your booster must be an mRNA. And he-and he said at that time that once you’ve had your booster, that’ll be it. I’m not so sure that, is that still the case?
So, two things. The first one there is Pfizer is the first company to have applied for and been approved for a booster, and it’s a universal booster so it can apply to AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Pfizer.
The second thing is that, with regards to an annual vaccination, that’s not determined. By chance, last night, I spoke with Sir Andrew Pollard, who’s the Head of the Oxford Vaccines Group.
They developed AstraZeneca, he and Dame Sarah Gilbert and others, and his advice was very clear that the world doesn’t know yet whether there will need to be annual vaccines.
There’s a clear view that a third dose or a booster does add to and complete the program. But whether or not there will be annual vaccinations, that’s simply a medical question that will evolve.
It may be that the coverage lasts a lot longer than had previously been anticipated. But, you know, the third dose is the one we’re encouraging everybody to get.
Good on you, Minister. Thank you for your time. Greg Hunt, Federal Health Minister.