Interview with Studio 10

19 Aug 2020
Prime Minister

Sarah Harris: This is the news we've all been waiting for. Australia has signed a deal to acquire a COVID-19 vaccine. And if trials are successful, we will be among the first in the world to get the jab. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, joins us now from Kirribilli House in Sydney. Prime Minister, it's great to see you. Thank you for joining us. Why did you choose this...

Prime Minister: Great to be here, it’s a bit warmer in Sydney.

Harris: Which is great. It's nice to have you here. Why did you choose this particular vaccine to sign up to?

Prime Minister: Well, it’s the most advanced in its trials and our advice is from the medical experts that it is showing the best prospects, and that's borne out by a number of the discussions I've had with other Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world. This is a very, very good program and one that looks very strong and so we wanted to ensure that we are right in the lead pack on this and we have the added advantage that we can make it here, too. So we're not relying on it being produced anywhere else in the world. We'll manufacture it right here in Australia and we'll get cracking on that as soon as those trials, if they're successful, enable us to do that.

Harris: You weren't tempted by the Russian vaccine?

Prime Minister: No, I think we'll go with AstraZeneca. We’ll probably go with the University of Oxford. Let me put it that way.

Joe Hildebrand: It is great news. Dare we hope, PM, that this could actually be, finally, the magic bullet that puts an end to all this. It's at this stage three phase, you mentioned that we actually have the capacity to manufacture it here. Can you just talk us through, where is it, where is it at in terms of human trials? And then how does it go from there? Do we get like a concentrated version that we then mass produce here, or how does it actually work mechanically?

Prime Minister: Well, in simple terms, you basically get the recipe and off you go. And the manufacturing capability exists here for this type of a vaccine. They're very complex things. I'm obviously not a medical expert, but my advice is that, you know, we have the capacity to produce that type of a vaccine here in Australia and it's just a matter of basically getting the formula and off you go. And we would hope that with the trials going into their further stages now, that if that means that it is, if it is and I’ve got to stress that it's not a certainty here, there's never been a vaccine for a coronavirus ever. There are 160 projects around the world right now. If ever, there's never been such a concentrated effort on finding a particular vaccine before. So there's enormous resource being put into it around the world. But should that be successful, then we would hope to have production underway and it available in Australia next year, early next year.

Hildebrand: And just to clarify, this vaccine has been shown to work in humans, but it hasn't gone to that mass kind of trial yet. Is that right?

Prime Minister: Yeah. You've got to go through that and you've got to understand its side effects and the various vulnerabilities and all of these things that would have to be looked at by Australian medical experts for it to be approved for use here in Australia. And while there's a clear urgency and keenness to get this into the population, the same caution has to be provided as we do with any other vaccine.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley: Prime Minister, will you publicly get vaccinated?

Prime Minister: Of course, as would my family. The priorities...

Kennerley: So you’re, you would be very happy when we're rolling it out to stand there, roll up your shirt and get the vax?

Prime Minister: Jab away. Yeah, absolutely, I think that's very important. But there'll be, I suspect, more important priorities than me. People working in health care and aged care and people working in disabilities, people working in remote communities. A lot of those who are in frontline roles, but also the more vulnerable in our community. They'll be our priority, I suspect. But that priority list will be done by medical experts, not by me.

Angela Bishop: Prime Minister, for the vaccine to work effectively a large number of our population are going to have to take it. Some people say two thirds. Some epidemiologists suggest actually, because they don't know the long term efficiency of it, that maybe as many as 90 percent. Now, here in Australia, and I'm not talking about anti-vaxxers here, I'm talking about ordinary Australians, could have some concerns about how quickly this has been developed and so forth. I mean, you couldn't even get that many people to take up, put an app on their phone. Are you concerned that everyday Australians will have some concerns about this and that not enough people would get vaccinated to make it effective?

Prime Minister: Well, 95 percent is the target for vaccinations. That's what's applied to many vaccinations here in Australia. You're right. I mean, on coronavirus sort of herd immunity by people getting it, the two thirds figure is what has been often quoted, but 95 percent is what you go for on a vaccination strategy. And, but what I want to assure people is there'll be no corners cut. There'll be no steps missed. We will apply the same rigour to this vaccine as we would to any other vaccine and the same rules would apply and in getting out as far and wide as possible. Now, you're right, there are some individuals for whom vaccines can't be provided. They can't take them for medical reasons and that that occurs with vaccines now. And those people, in particular, depend on everyone else getting the vaccine, because that's what provides the full herd immunity that protects them and their families.

Harris: We had our Studio 10 viewers vote in an online poll and it's trending at the moment, 71 percent of them said that they would get the COVID-19 vaccine. That's 29 percent of people who watch our show and follow us on social media that you still need to convince. How will you sell this vaccine to those people who might not be sure, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister: Well, look, I'm confident about that. And I think as time goes on and the process is better understood that this is something that's in the national interest and in the health interest of every single Australian. We know the absolute havoc that the pandemic has caused, not just to people's health and their lives, but also their livelihoods. The disruptions to people's jobs. I mean, this is the way, ultimately, out of this, is through a vaccine. And until there is a vaccine, then we need to continue with the testing, the tracing, the social distancing. I mean, the COVIDSafe app now is just shy of seven million take-up and that's about double what people thought it would achieve early on. And so people are taking that up and I'd encourage them to keep doing it because that has been very effective in New South Wales, where we have been able to crack down on the outbreaks of the virus and it's certainly assisted the contact traces in New South Wales to do that job.

Harris: All right, Prime Minister, we know you're a busy man this morning. Thank you very much for your time. Maybe you could provide a jelly bean for everyone who gets jabbed?

Prime Minister: That sounds like a good idea. That sounds like an excellent idea.

Harris: Save a black one for me, they’re the best.

Prime Minister: I don’t like the, I don’t like those ones. I like the red ones, so, anyway.

Hildebrand: Who likes the black ones? That’s a whole other segment.

Harris: Typical.

Prime Minister: I’ll save those for you.

Harris: Thank you Prime Minister, appreciate your time.

Prime Minister: Cheers.