The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
4 November 2021
INTERVIEW WITH SARAH HARRIS AND TRISTAN MACMANUS
Topics: NHMRC Health and Medical Research Grants; COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids.
Now, while COVID vaccines are being hailed as miracles, the long-term effects of the virus continue to baffle scientists.
Today, the Federal Government has pledged $239 million towards 248 research projects it hopes will provide insight into a wide range of medical issues.
One of these projects will look at COVID’s long-term impact on the brain, and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now from Melbourne to explain.
Minister, it is great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
COVID’s long-term impact on brain cells, is this the brain fog we keep on hearing about?
Well, we do know that many people experience after-effects of COVID and the world is still learning, but we want to be right at the front of the research into the long-term impacts.
Many people recover and then move forward from COVID, but there is a proportion that have what is known as long COVID and that can take different forms, but the fog of the brain that you are talking about is a real phenomenon, and so University of Queensland, Professor Meunier, one of the leading researchers in this field I think, globally, not just Australia, a $900,000 grant.
They are looking at the brain, how to block the impacts on the brain and then more generally how to block the impacts of COVID, so really important research.
That’s great to hear. Speaking of being front of the queue, children 5 to 11 years of age in the United States are getting their first COVID-19 vaccine from today.
How soon will it be for Australian children?
Pfizer has started their application. There is more to come for Australia, so we’ve encouraged them. I’ve written to, spoken with the Australian CEO.
They have already submitted the first data and so we are now going through the assessment by our medical regulator, the TGA. They will take as much time as they need to be absolutely certain on safety and effectiveness, but they are working as quickly as possible.
So when they are ready, we are ready. We were able to go straight onto the 12 to 15-year-olds, I think they are now at about 68 per cent vaccinated, straight onto the boosters.
And I can give you the breaking news that we have already passed 100,000 Australians that have had boosters in recent days, so I think that’s fantastic news, and we are ready to go onto the 5 to 11s.
We have the orders, we have the volume, as and when the medical regulator deems it safe and effective.
The uptake of the vaccine has been absolutely extraordinary.
Minister, while we have you, we have to ask you about the Prime Minister’s stoush with the French President Emmanuel Macron. Private texts have now been leaked. It has been described as an unprecedented low in their relationship.
Do you think Mr Morrison and Mr Macron can make up?
Look, we have a long history of working with the French. My great-uncle is buried in French
soil at Villers-Bretonneux. He fell in World War I and many Australians have sacrificed themselves for France.
There are always moments in the course of history. We have to stand up for our long-term security in the Asia-Pacific, and we understand that France was disappointed, but our job is not to surrender our national interests, our job is to stand up for our national interests, and no-one is stronger on standing up for the national interests than Scott Morrison.
It was a difficult decision, but, in my view, unequivocally the correct decision, but we have a long history with France. I gave you my family’s personal example, but there are so many Australians with deep connections and we will work forwards; we will work constructively.
A great country, a great ally, but ultimately our fundamental task as a government is to secure the long-term interests of Australia.
Minister Greg Hunt, thanks so much for joining us today.