The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
20 September 2021
Topics: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout; Moderna Vaccines.
And good afternoon, everybody. I’m pleased to be able to say we have had a record Sunday of vaccinations across Australia. A record weekend of vaccinations and a record week of vaccinations across Australia.
Over 172,000 people came forward yesterday, and almost 400,000 over the weekend, and 1.936 million Australians, nearly 2 million Australians, came forward last week to be vaccinated, to protect themselves and to protect their families.
Overnight, 700,000 Moderna have arrived in Australia. The TGA has cleared the first batch and they are being distributed today. So we’ve seen a million Moderna vaccines arrive over the weekend, and they will go into pharmacies throughout the course of this week and next week as the next batch is cleared by TGA.
What that means is 1,800 pharmacies coming online to vaccinate Australians with the Moderna vaccine this week. Another 1,800 pharmacies coming online to vaccinate Australians with the Moderna vaccine next week.
We have increased number of GPs from 3,000 to over 4,500, with the GPs and Commonwealth vaccination clinics that are run by GPs operating. So more points of presence, more vaccines, more opportunity, and more people than ever being vaccinated.
And I hope that this week Australians can come forward, go to their GPs that are new, go to pharmacies that are coming on board, go and take the opportunities in the Commonwealth or state clinics, and be vaccinated if you haven’t or come forward for your second doses.
In particular, I’d note 172,000 vaccinations yesterday has taken it to almost 24.8 million vaccinations. And very significantly 72.1 per cent first doses and 47 per cent second doses around the country.
Perhaps most significantly, there’s just over 1.6 million Australians to go to achieve the 80 per cent first dose rate. And this week alone, we know that there’s over 1.9 million mRNA vaccines that have already been distributed.
So the opportunity is there. And it’s the chance for Australians to achieve, not just the 80 per cent, but I hope significantly higher rates than that. As we go forward, we know the over-70s are already at 92.4 per cent. And our aged care workers are at 98.2 per cent, which is an extraordinary national achievement, one of the highest rates in the world.
As we focus on our elderly Australians, today we’re releasing the Dementia Roadmap. It’s been developed as part of the Ageing and Dementia Mission, a $185 million mission. That brings with it $35 million in funding, $25 million for research, and $13 million for a National Centre for Dementia Monitoring to gather the data.
We know there are 472,000 Australians who have some form of dementia, and this is about supporting them, supporting their carers, supporting better treatment, and supporting the search for a cure.
And then the last thing is I’m really pleased to be able to say the annual bulk-billing figures have now been released, and that shows 88.8 per cent bulk-billing for GPs across Australia. So that is an increase of 6.5 per cent since we came into Government. And it means that almost nine-out-of-10 Australians visit the doctor for free when they go to their GP.
Telehealth has helped drive that, and that has been a revolution, arguably the biggest change in the delivery of Medicare in the most positive way since Medicare was first founded. So it’s been a revolution in the way in which Australians visit the doctor. It has led to higher bulk-billing rates, and that means more Australians can see their doctor without having to pay.
I want to thank all of our medical professionals. And I’ll turn to those on the phone first. Jade, first, if that’s alright, and then come to the room. Thank you.
Thank, Minister. Daniel Andrews says the National Cabinet was, on Friday, told that there was an issue regarding Pfizer supply in October. What is that issue? Is there an international supply chain problem? And could you please confirm how many Pfizer doses we’re expecting next month and how that compares to September?
Sure. We’re expecting an increase in mRNA from September to October. That’s the latest advice that I have from COVID Shield as of this morning. And that means we’ll go to approximately 10 million mRNA vaccines in Australia in September to over 11 million mRNA vaccines available during the course of October.
So every state and territory is receiving their full allocations. What we have been able to do is make sure that we manage the arrival of supply. The UK doses are arriving earlier, and that’s allowed us to manage just simply the issue of flight arrivals. What matters, every state and territory is seeing increased supplies.
We’re going from 10 million to more than 11 million doses. We have been able to bring forward the capacity for every Australian to have vaccinations before the end of October. Now, it’s up to the Australian public, so I’m very pleased that we’re able to address and resolve that over the weekend.
Just to follow-up, Minister, because Daniel Andrews and Andrew Barr of the ACT have both said similar things. They claim this supposed Pfizer supply issue was detailed at National Cabinet.
But as you said there, there will be an increase in October based on September, but is that rise potentially not as quite as high as we were expecting? Are we maybe not getting as much of a rise as we were expecting there to be?
Cause we have two different state leaders saying the same thing, claiming there was a briefing at the National Cabinet to that effect. Could you kindly just, like, sort of clarify that a bit more?
Yeah, sure. No, we’re expecting that all of our contracted anticipated deliveries will arrive in full. That means an increase from October to September. All of the states and territories are going to receive their full horizons.
Look, to be honest, the thing that was raised was the timing of one shipment over the course of two weeks. We’ve been able to resolve that over the course of the weekend. That’s part of our work. Every day, there are different challenges.
We’ve been able to ensure that our UK doses arrived earlier, and as a consequence of that, we have 1.9 million doses of mRNA that are available for this week. Next week, there’s an increase in that, and the following week, we’ll also see well over 1.9 million doses in the first week of October. So, that’s our job: to deal with all of the challenges and I think I’d rather address it, and we’ve been able to do that.
So an increase, every state and territory, an increase from 1,900 to 3,000 GPs over the last two weeks. This week, over 4,500 GPs. The GPs are also getting more doses. The base has moved from 150 to 300 and many are receiving 450.
1,800 pharmacies coming on board. By next week, it’ll be 3,600 pharmacies. And what that means is, over the course of October, every Australian will have access to be vaccinated; enough in Australia to vaccinate every Australian, not just once, but twice.
In addition to that, there is uncapped AstraZeneca for every state, every territory, every pharmacy, every general practice.
Thanks, Minister. Just two very quick ones. Are you able to provide a breakdown of how many Moderna doses each state and territory will be receiving this week and into next week?
And also, last week, I guess it was announced that the Government had launched this Vaccine Administration Partners Program for people to get vaccinated at their workplace. Do you have any idea when workplaces will be able to access that panel of providers and when those jabs can start being delivered in the office?
Sure. So the Horizons document is published by COVID Shield, and I understand that’s just being finalised and they’ll make that available once it’s complete and that covers allocations to states and territories.
Then the second thing is the workplace vaccinations. That has now been opened up. Tenders will be received, they’ll be assessed. They’ll be assessed at the departmental level, as is the appropriate way. And once they’ve been developed, once they’ve been assessed, and once they’ve been issued, then people will be able to go to their workplace if their workplace has applied.
Thank you, Minister. Two questions for me if you don’t mind. Some remote Indigenous communities in Queensland are reporting vaccination rates as low as five per cent. Where does the state and federal responsibility lie to get those numbers up?
And on a totally different matter, can Christian Porter stay on the Backbench with hundreds of thousands of dollars (INAUDIBLE) undisclosed donations?
Sure. Look, in terms of Indigenous vaccination, it’s a joint partnership. It’s Commonwealth, state, local, and Indigenous.
So on Friday, we had a very, very powerful briefing of all of the Health Ministers by Pat Turner, who is the head of the coalition of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and her point was very simple. And she said, we all have to engage in the fight against hesitancy.
She said, supply is not an issue in Indigenous communities. These were Pat’s words, and she is one of the strongest and most fearless Indigenous advocates, not just in Australia today, but I think that we’ve ever had.
And she was very clear with all of the Ministers; we have to jointly tackle the issue of hesitancy. Having said that, we are seeing very significant take up in indigenous communities, but not every community.
What we’ll see is quite different levels of take-up, and that means we have to work to dispel some of the myths and some of those that are preying upon those communities with frankly dangerous and irresponsible comments.
And we also have to ensure that there is the support from within Indigenous Australia to assist Indigenous Australia, to give them the confidence, to give them the ability to step forward.
In terms of Christian Porter, the Prime Minister spoke yesterday, made the point that he’s taking the appropriate action. That’s now a matter for Mr Porter and the Parliament.
Thanks for taking our questions, Minister. Andrew Barr, in his press conference this morning, said that he believed too many doses were going to primary care and doctors surgeries primarily, and that state run vaccine hubs could be administering much quicker.
What do you make of that comment? Will you consider re-looking at those numbers, a breakdown between primary care and state hubs?
Well, around the country, what we’ve seen is that the GPs have been the backbone of the program, and many people have been wanting to see even greater effort.
So we’re increasing the number of GPs administering Pfizer, from 3.000 last week to 4,500 this week, and that just gives people more opportunity and more time.
For the ACT, their August figures were 117,000 doses of mRNA. Their September figures have grown to 154,000, and in October, the ACT will have 224,000 approximately doses of mRNA made available across state, Commonwealth, and general practice and pharmacy.
Our approach is the more opportunities people have to go, whether it’s to state hubs, whether it’s to go to GPs or pharmacies, the more opportunity they have to be vaccinated, and that’s been borne out in the numbers distributed to date. So we work with everybody.
Hi, thanks Minister for taking my question. Just to kind of add to the Andrew Barr kind of commentary regarding supply constraints and obviously Premier Andrews as well, will the Commonwealth kind of consider releasing more doses to those states, which do see supply constraints and heightened demand similar to kind of what was given to New South Wales?
Well, I think we’ve just seen a record week. We’ve just seen almost two million people step forward, and this week we have another 1.9 million mRNA and uncapped AstraZeneca. I believe there’s over half a million AstraZeneca that have been distributed, but there are also significant supplies.
And so what we’re doing is exactly that. We have a record week precisely because we have been able to make record vaccines available. And so there is significant supply available and that’s leading to record doses last week. And I hope there’s a new record this week.
But for me, whether somebody is vaccinated in a state clinic or a Commonwealth clinic, whether they’re vaccinated in a GP or a pharmacy, what matters is that they’re vaccinated. And we’re in a position now where every Australian can be vaccinated and we want them to be vaccinated as early as possible. But certainly over the course of the next month and during October, we’ll have enough vaccine in Australia to have vaccinated all of the eligible population, not just once, but twice.
Thanks, Minister. I just wanted to ask you about the Doherty Institute sensitivity analysis that an update was given to National Cabinet on Friday, given it notes that TTIQ is most likely partially effective rather than optimally effective with high case numbers that we’re seeing at the moment, and it also says that strong suppression until 80 per cent coverage is reached is recommended.
I wanted to ask you whether you think the opening up plans that have so far been announced by New South Wales and Victoria will achieve that strong suppression. Do you believe they are in line with that advice? Or do you think that the base, the public health and social measures that they’re advocating are more sort of baseline than medium level?
No, I would have to say that both represent strong action.
Well, what we are seeing in New South Wales is a stabilisation and a decrease in daily numbers on average. That still has to consolidate itself. So there’s more to be done, and I certainly don’t want to pre-empt the next month where the people of Sydney and New South Wales are in a real effort to continue to bring these cases down.
But they’re now well over 80 per cent first doses, that’s on the vaccination front. On the other front, let’s be clear, this is far from the normal situation in Sydney. People’s lives are very different than they would otherwise be.
They are doing it tough, and under no way should anybody presume that what people in Sydney are experiencing now, even as they are able to progressively regain parts of their life, that they should think this is anything other than exceptionally tough and onerous.
Imagine two years ago, having people in lockdown or being able to only leave home for certain reasons, that would have been almost unthinkable. And so these are heavy and difficult and challenging conditions for people, and they’re making a real difference, both in terms of vaccination but also the public health and social measures.
In terms of Victoria, obviously, it’s a very cautious roadmap, and I know there will be differing views, but both states are taking measures that are very significant.
In the room?
On the opening up, the New South Wales Premier has warned that COVID-19 cases will go through the roof once the state starts to open up next month, and she says the state’s health system would be technically overwhelmed and work at triple its current capacity.
Do you accept her assessment of the case number projections and in terms of the overwhelmed health system? Is that reflected in the investigations by the health system capacity done by Professor Murphy?
Look, we know that the very nature of vaccine targets means that you’re providing protection to people. We’ve had, on a case fatality rate, a dramatic drop this year as opposed to last year, which follows vaccination and the outcome of people who are being protected.
In terms of the New South Wales health system, we have confidence in all of the states and territories that they’re prepared for a surge. New South Wales is doing that now and it’s not easy, but that we have the most exceptional professionals.
We have expanded our ventilation capacity from 2,000 to 7,500 nationwide. We’ve created a public and private partnership, a private hospitals liability guarantee that brings over 30,000 beds, 57,000 nurses and more than 100,000 private hospital staff online to be there as a back-up, to be there as a partnership.
So they’re prepared, they’re ready, they’ve worked. And this is the great challenge of COVID, of allowing us to regain our freedoms, of giving people the capacity to go about their lives whilst also managing what has been one of the great pandemics.
Last week, I released figures which showed that of the 38 OECD countries, in 2021, Australia has the second lowest fatality rate, and that’s a result of all of the different measures. So they’re prepared.
They are well past 80 per cent first vaccination rate, so they’ll be well past 80 per cent second vaccination rate soon enough. And I hope and I believe that New South Wales and other states and territories will continue to drive past that rate.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody, and the important message is record vaccinations on Sunday, record vaccinations on the weekend. A record week of vaccinations, but increased vaccine supply this week and next week, and going through October, which means that every Australian has the opportunity to be vaccinated.
If you haven’t been vaccinated, please come forward, and if you are due for your second dose, please come forward. It will protect you. It will protect your friends and your family, and will help give us our lives back at the earliest possible time. Take care.