Topics: COVID vaccine distribution announcement; Distribution to remote communities; Emergency rollout before March; Positive healthcare worker who transported aged care resident.
There’s another milestone in Australia’s race for a coronavirus vaccine thing morning – the Federal Government revealing new details on exactly how the jab will be distributed across the country and when.
For more, as you know, he’s ready to go, I’m joined by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, from Mount Martha in Victoria. Good morning to you, Greg. It’s great to see you again.
This is a huge operation here.
And good morning.
This is something that is not (inaudible) lightly. We need this, we need this urgently. How’s it looking?
We’re ahead of schedule on our vaccine program and we have new contracts for the distribution.
So we obviously have the three big vaccines, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, being produced overwhelmingly here in Australia by CSL, and Novavax.
Now we have contracts for distribution, in particular the Pfizer distribution requires a minus 70-degree temperature controlled-remote sensed process, and DHL and Linfox will be doing that.
It’s one of the largest logistical exercises in Australian history, but our team’s working right through the Christmas and New Year period. They are doing an amazing job.
But right now we have confidence about the vaccines, confidence about what’s occurring in New South Wales.
I understand that they’ll have another day of very good results off extraordinarily high testing.
And you know, Australians have had an incredibly challenging year, but I think it’s been perhaps the finest year since the Second World War.
And I just want to thank everybody and give them that confidence – What they are doing and what they are doing in partnership is working.
It really has been an extraordinary job by everybody involved – Government down to every
last healthcare worker.
But for those tasked with this job it is a huge responsibility. This is a massive country. We know people in the cities will be able to access this straight away, but what about the remote communities?
That’s a hugely important part of our planning – to make sure this equal access for everybody.
Obviously we start with older Australians, and health workers, and people who are working on the frontline with the quarantine system, and then we will work through the population.
But geography is not a barrier to the distribution – that’s what is incredibly important.
And so we have plans to work with the remote indigenous communities, the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, and that’s why having the logistics arrangements are so important.
Minister, we know now that obviously healthcare workers, elderly will be the first people to get this in the March rollout when we think the vaccine is going to hit.
But let’s say that, you know, we’re seeing in America with the huge numbers going through there and through England as well, if we needed today roll this out in an emergency, say there are a few more clusters that have happened post New Year’s eve, which could potentially happen, a super-spreader event if we allow New Year’s eve to continue, is there a chance you will do an emergency rollout before March?
Well, we’re in a position to provide good confidence on March and that’s because what Australians want, and what we believe is absolutely necessary, is to make sure there’s total certainty about the safety and the efficacy and the distribution.
And our goal has always been to under-promise and to over-deliver, and we’ve done that with our testing, with our PPE, with our ventilators.
And there are no Australians on ventilators.
But is it an option. Is there an option for emergency rollout?
If there is- if there’s more clusters, and you know, more borders stay shutdown, we’re looking at $3 billion worth of our tourism being lost completely.
Is there an option of an emergency rollout in case of cluster emergency- more clusters break out?
Well, with great respect, what we will not compromise is the safety and the data and the evidence. I think that is a fundamental task.
What we are seeing is that the strongest way to deal with an outbreak is exactly what New South Wales has done.
This was potentially an outbreak on the scale of Victoria, and yet it’s being controlled with the testing and tracing.
So we’ll always provide confidence, deliver against it, but not overpromise, and always seek to under-promise and over-deliver.
And as a country that is what we’ve been able to do this year, and so we’ve got our different rings of containment, and our borders, our testing, our tracing, and, as we are seeing in NSW at the moment, the local, the local lockdowns. All of this is working. And then the vaccines come on top of that.
So we are on track, in fact we are ahead of schedule with our vaccine rollout.
In the last 24 hours I’ve spoken with the head of Pfizer Australia, with AstraZeneca senior officials, the head of CSL globally, and my confidence is even greater that we’ll be able to deliver the vaccines early in 2021.
That is good to hear, March seems to be the definite. Now just quickly before you go, Minister, how concerned are you about this COVID breach in Sydney which saw a healthcare worker moving sick travellers into quarantine, then being allowed to transport an aged care resident?
Look, I know that New South Wales Health has made a statement on that. We’re seeking the details.
Overwhelmingly they are doing an incredible job. We do know that there will inevitably be transmission of a disease that’s seeing over 600,000 cases a day on average, and agonisingly 11,000 lives lost.
When we see eight cases across Australia in the community yesterday, and we’re hopeful that it will be a similar if not lower number today, that we are doing extraordinarily well.
But there will be points of transmissions.
Our job is to make sure that we have the systems to protect against those and the transmission. That’s what is happening now.
It’s a difficult thing for the people of the Northern Beaches, but Australians are doing an extraordinary job.
And I just want to finish by thanking our health workers and our Australian public for their extraordinary dedication.
And I think that’s what sets Australia apart, and has helped keep Australia safe this year and will keep us safe in 2021.
Well, it’s going to be an extraordinary Christmas this year, and I’m sure you’re not going to be able to relax, even (inaudible).
So, whatever you can do to relax in this next 24 hours, try to do so. Thanks so much
for your time this morning.
Take care everybody, and you know, we’re going to get there, and you have done a great job.
Thank you so much, Minister.