E&OE: Topics: Coronavirus vaccine; Victoria; Impact of lockdowns on mental health service.
Now, Oxford University says it will continue its COVID-19 vaccine trial in Brazil following the death of a volunteer.
It’s understood the patient had been given a placebo, not the trial vaccine, made by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Now, the trial vaccine is among the frontrunners in a global race to produce a coronavirus jab.
And Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me now. Minister, good morning, welcome. Australia has secured a supply of this Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Should we be concerned about this?
Good morning. Well, as we know, that this is one of the most rigorous testing programs in the world. The advice in relation to the very sad loss in Brazil is that there are no safety concerns at this stage.
The details as to whether or not the young man was on the vaccine or the placebo are being formally confirmed, so we’re seeking that advice from AstraZeneca, the public reports are that he may not have been on the vaccine itself.
Secondly, that it’s likely to be some other issue, rather than a vaccine or a placebo related issue.
So, we have the best regulator, I think, in the world in Australia. But the UK regulatory system is absolutely at the top of the world standard, and Oxford is, of course, one of the world’s leading universities, so we have all of the safeguards in place.
Around the world, when you are having trials with multiple of thousands of people, as should be the case, we’re always on the watch for every case, everywhere, that may indicate an adverse reaction.
But the early response from the company and from the regulators is that this is unlikely to be related, particularly if it turns out that it’s a placebo that’s been used.
Alright. Okay, so that trial continues from Oxford University. Let’s talk about Victoria, low case numbers there, but Daniel Andrews still won’t open up Melbourne.
Are you, the Federal Government, concerned about the state’s contact tracing system, that it’s still not up to scratch, that Melbourne should be opening up faster than it is?
Look, I think, and all our advice is that Victorian contact tracing system, which obviously had some profound challenges, has improved significantly.
And we’ve had 400 ADF members that have been assisting, the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, who has overseen a very serious transformation, leading contact tracers from Queensland, and Western Australia amongst others who’ve joined in, and the national incidence centre that’s assisted. So, it’s improved very significantly, more to go.
But I think the important point is that now Victoria is in a position to safely, cautiously, move to a predominantly open, COVID-safe model – like New South Wales – given that it has very low case numbers, less than seven cases a day over 14 days, less than three cases a day on a three-day rolling average, and that’s good news for Victoria.
And we know that this is so important with a dramatic spike, a 31 per cent increase in Medicare mental health services, and an increase in postnatal and prenatal mental health services, and an increase in eating disorder claims for young Victorians.
So, the stresses are real, and that’s why it’s important to balance how we approach this issue. But Victoria is improving and strong, and the case numbers are low.
Yeah. It’s terrific to hear there is so much support available now for Victorians. Greg Hunt, thanks for your time today, we appreciate it.