The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
19 July 2021
INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT EMERSON
Topics: COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Now, the other interesting news I think has come out, and giving you a lot of hope moving forward, is that overnight, almost 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine landed in Australia as part of the nation’s vaccine ramp-up.
Now, that is very positive news, and I’m joined now by the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Minister, thanks for being on 4BC Drive.
It’s a pleasure, and good afternoon, Scott.
Look, yeah, that is exciting news, this 1 million doses arriving overnight. And I know we’re likely to see now 1 million every week moving forward. People will welcome that, but why has it taken so long to get those kind of numbers up?
Well, this was always part of the agreement, because a) there was a global ramp-up in production b) the honest answer is the company is fair to say they had to prioritise their countries of production, and they also had to prioritise mass death.
And we’ve had senior people say to us we will give Australia a very fair share, but every dose in Europe and America at the moment is potentially saving lives.
But what we’ve been able to do is bring forward those 3 million doses to this quarter, and that ramp-up, we go from 300,000 in June to now we’ll be getting approximately a million a week. And that will help.
We’ll see already the impact of the increase to 500,000 in recent weeks has helped us achieve 975,000 vaccinations in the last week – so just shy of that million – but a major increase.
And so, you know, in recent weeks, we’ve had a very significant ramp-up from 720,000 a few weeks ago to 780, 880, 890, and now 975,000. So people are stepping forward when the vaccines are available.
And importantly, we’re now at 10.1 million vaccinations in Australia. And in a population of 20.6 million eligible people, that’s a very significant sign of progress.
So where do we go from here then, in terms of the rollout in terms of the age groups there? Are we now going to see those under the age of 40 getting the Pfizer or even younger people than that? Say, under 20?
So, that time will come. And right now, of course, I think it’s very important to set out the facts. In the over- in the 40 to 49 age group, what we see is that at this point we’ve got an average of about 32 per cent of people vaccinated. So there’s very, very significant demand there.
And in the over-50s, we’re now at 59 per cent for everybody over 50. In the over-70s, it’s 75 per cent. So we want to see some more progress in that 40 to 49 age group to meet some of that demand, because the older you are, the more vulnerable.
And so around the world, overwhelmingly, nations have followed the science of starting with the oldest and working their way down. But we’re very hopeful that over the course of the next two months, we’ll be able to open up to the under 40s and then others below that and keep urging people to come forward.
To think that we’ve got three quarters of the population over 70 vaccinated is an immensely important achievement.
Now, are you still keeping to your commitment, the timeline, that everyone in Australia who wants to be vaccinated will at least have their first dose by the end of the year?
Yes, we are. We’ve reaffirmed that. I’ve just come off a briefing with Lieutenant General Frewen and Professor Brendan Murphy of the team operating that Operation COVID Shield. And we’re now more confident of that than ever.
And these rates at the moment were higher than we were expecting in the middle of the year in terms of vaccinations, and that’s a combination of people coming forward, the immense good work of our doctors and our nurses around the country, and all of those involved in both the Commonwealth, the state, and the GP programs. And also those additional supplies earlier than had been anticipated.
So we’ve fought really hard to do that. We’re pleased that we’ve now got that. And that that is making a difference. And Australia does have, and I think this is a really important point, a great vaccination history and record and culture.
So if people are stepping forward, then every day that we say those numbers. And, last week we hit 175,000 on Thursday; that was a record day. And each week, I’m hoping we’ll just continue to improve the numbers as the supply comes in.
I’m talking to Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, you’re talking about the numbers rolling through, improving the vaccination rollout.
I looked at that Newspoll today, the Coalition is trailing now Labor 47 to 53. That’s another drop again, the worst figures we’ve seen since the bushfires.
How much is that drop because of a failure in terms of vaccination rollout?
Look, I won’t try to speculate. I understand that people in lockdown, it’s a very difficult time for them. And, you know, we know whether it’s Sydney or Melbourne, or you have friends or family, there will understandably be concern. And so I won’t try to interpret it.
I just know that our job is to continue to expand this rollout. And having passed the 10 million mark and the 75 per cent for over 70s, and then with the million Pfizer a week coming in, these are really important things, that we build that confidence for the country.
That’s the focus of myself, and the Prime Minister, and the Treasurer and the team. And if people believe that we will get through this, which we will, and that we’re doing it better than almost anybody in the world, then they’ll make their own judgements.
But our job right now is to protect lives and protect livelihoods. And we are seeing very significantly that where there had, for example, been incursions into aged care homes, the vaccinations have protected people.
And we’ve had three people in Victoria who were fully vaccinated and contracted the virus, that will return back to their homes. In New South Wales, we’ve had positive progress so far where there were cases in the aged care homes, and instead of the catastrophic and terrible scenes we saw in Victoria last year, we’re having people treated, returned home.
And that’s why vaccination is so important. So that’s our task and our focus. And we’ll leave the judgement to the people. But our job has been protecting Australians and we’ll continue to do that.
Now, Minister, I understand that the British media personality, Katie Hopkins, is now at the Sydney Airport about to be kicked back to the UK. Should she ever have been allowed into Australia?
Sure. So, look, firstly, two words: good riddance. I did, when I heard about, I hadn’t, honestly, I’m not aware of ever having heard of her before. But when I heard about the issue on Saturday evening, I sent a message to Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs, but she was already onto her.
She was right onto this and was- had taken steps to commence the visa cancellation process by Border Force. But secondly, yeah, that’s a matter for Channel Seven to explain in terms of what that they’ve done.
But this was in addition to the cap, and supported in the same way that the Queensland Government has supported bringing film production and other media people in where they believed it was for the economic benefit of the state.
That was the case with this one. And I’ll leave it to the media organisation to explain their judgement on individuals. But I’ve got to say, once there was evidence that this person, Katie Hopkins, had been deliberately breaching health and quarantine protocols, I think it was a short time.
She had a short period in front of her before she was going to be booted out of the country.
All right. Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, thanks for being on the show this afternoon.
Thanks, Scott. And thanks, everybody. We’ll get through it. Thanks for everything you’re doing with vaccination. Please keep coming forwards. And we’ll get everybody there.