Press Conference - Kirribilli, NSW

12 Sep 2021
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: A family sized dose of hope for our vaccination programme. I can confirm today that the federal government has secured an additional one million Moderna doses from the European Union member states arriving next weekend and doubling our Moderna doses in September. 

In addition, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, also known as ATAGI, is now recommending Moderna for every one 12 years and over in line with the approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. That means everyone from 12 to 59 can go along to their community pharmacy where Moderna is being administered, and they'll be able to go and get a family jab. They'll be able to go on their pharmacies, family members, kids, parents, and be able to get that jab at their pharmacy. These doses plus Australia's already contracted supply will be shared around 3,600 community pharmacies across Australia and up to 1,800 pharmacies will begin to receive doses through the week of the 20th of September. So those doses right at the end next week and then they'll make their way across those first 1,800 pharmacies and then to the balance. 

I particularly want to thank the governments of Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Bulgaria, as well as the European Commission for their cooperation as we work through the arrangements. I also want to thank Moderna for their support for these arrangements, and as well as Norway and Sweden, who have helped facilitate this deal over the course of this these last few weeks. These additional Moderna doses, of course, come in addition to the four million we were able to secure in the arrangement with the United Kingdom, with the swap there and the one million we were able to secure from Poland in the direct purchase arrangement we had there and of course, the 500,000 in the swap arrangement we had with Singapore. 

Now, these additional doses will also provide a role in providing additional support for Victoria. And Victoria is currently dealing with the continued surge in cases just like we saw in New South Wales some time ago. And later today, the Minister for Health and General Frewen will be standing up and outlining the arrangements for the surge of of the mRNA vaccine support for Victoria as they deal with the outbreak. Residents in particular in Melbourne's north and west, will benefit from additional vaccines and a rapid expansion of vaccination sites across the region as part of a three week vaccination blitz there in Victoria to deal with the surging Delta outbreak there. To assist these communities and all Victorians, Minister Hunt and I have agreed the Commonwealth will surge more than 400,000 additional doses of Pfizer and Moderna in Victoria over the course of September. As I said, Minister Hunt and General Frewen will provide further details on that this afternoon. 

As of yesterday, I should say, 22,473,563 doses have been administered across Australia. More than two in three Australians aged over 16 have now had their first dose, more than two in three. And that's 67.4 per cent right now. And 42.3 per cent of those aged over 16 have had both doses. For over 70 year olds, the news is even better. 90.8 per cent have had their first dose and 70.5 per cent have had both doses. So over 70s, more than 70 per cent have had double doses of the vaccine. And the over 70s age group have always been the most vulnerable. And that gives us an even greater level of confidence as we move into these final phases and we move into the national plan. Some 195,809 doses were done just yesterday on a Saturday. The next few weeks will, of course, be very critical as we work together to reach the targets and the goals set out in the national plan, a national plan that is designed to open safely and to stay safely open. That's what the national plan is all about. Whether you're in a state like here in New South Wales or down in Victoria or the ACT, where they are the subject of lockdowns, or you're in other states where COVID levels are much lower and even zero, where you live in fear of the lockdowns. Where we want to get to is to be able to be open safely and to stay safely open. That's what the national plan is about. Now, in order to support that, we now have enough vaccines throughout the course of October, which we always hoped to do. And certainly by the end of the year originally, we'd hope to be able to get there by October. And now is in fact the case that particularly with these additional doses we've been able to achieve in recent weeks, it means that all of those right across Australia, we will have had enough of those doses so that there is enough for two doses for everyone in Australia who wants one. 

Now to keep that momentum going. From tonight, Australians will start to see the next phase of the government's advertising campaigns. This phase of our communications is about encouraging people to look forward. To look forward to the things that they will be able to do and keep on doing. Because as I said it's not just about being able to open safely, it's about being able to remain safely open. And so whether it's seeing friends getting together, going to a family event, whether it's going to a pub or going to a concert, or any of these things, the things that were being held back from for so long and in other states where they have been able to continue to do those things, to be able to have the confidence that they'll be able to keep doing them, knowing that the vaccination programme has been able to achieve its objectives, urging us all to do the first thing first, and that is to go and get that vaccine. And so I encourage everybody from tomorrow over 12s, 12 to 15 year olds will be able to get the vaccine. We're planning for that here in our household for our girls to be vaccinated. They're both between the ages of 12 and 15. And we need the whole country to continue to press forward. The goals are in sight. They are in very clear sight. And they are achievable. They are within reach. And so we now need to continue to surge forward in these final weeks and months of the programme to get us to those vaccination targets set out in the national plan. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] now go to their local pharmacy and get Moderna instead?

PRIME MINISTER: Moderna is available for those between 12 and 59. The 60 plus are still on AstraZeneca. 

JOURNALIST: But they can? Anyone can go to their pharmacy and ... 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, 12 to 59, yeah. 

JOURNALIST: And so does this mean, just clarify. Does this mean any Australian who wants a vaccine now will be able to get one? 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Between now and the end of October, that will be the case. 

JOURNALIST: Will this provide extra capacity for us to make mRNA vaccines available to over 60s?

PRIME MINISTER: When we reach that position, I will advise that. We'll advise accordingly and we'll continue to be guided by the advice we're receiving from the Chief Medical Officer. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what do you say to criticism that deals like getting this Moderna from the EU wouldn't be necessary if there'd been deals earlier with Pfizer? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the hindsight heroes always make their case. And what I know is last year we were very focused on ensuring that Australia had a sovereign manufacturing capability for the vaccines Australia would use. I mean, I reminded those in Canberra this week that Japan signed into a purchase arrangement in July, I think it was, last year. They received their doses just a matter of days before we did. So what was focusing the vaccination supply programme was where there was death and cases running rampant around the world. That wasn't happening here in Australia. And so what we knew very clearly from our engagements with companies last year is that Australia would need to establish a vaccination programme which relied on its own production capability. And so there were two vaccines we focused on because we knew we could make them here. One was, of course, the AstraZeneca vaccine and AstraZeneca vaccine, the mainstay of the UK vaccination programme, saved millions of lives, is the most used vaccine in the world and recognised around the world, I should say. Now, on top of that, we were focused on the University of Queensland vaccine as well. And regrettably, those trials didn't end the way we would like them to. It was an extraordinary vaccine, but it had some side effects of a positive HIV record, which obviously was not something that we could continue to pursue. But our goal was to ensure that we could manufacture vaccines here in Australia so we wouldn't be as reliant on supplies from overseas. Over 10 million of those AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered here in Australia. And that's why I can tell you today that over 70 per cent of 70 year olds are now double dose vaccinated. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you just clarify for Melbourne in particular where they're going through a particular problem at the moment, when will the doses arrive? Where do they go? Do they go hot spots? Is it both Pfizer and Moderna? 

PRIME MINISTER: It is Pfizer and Moderna. And as I said, Minister Hunt and General Frewen will be going through those details later today. And it is focused on those suburbs that I mentioned in Melbourne's north and west, where just like here in Sydney, when we had additional doses coming here into Sydney, that was designed to address the outbreaks in south-west and western Sydney. And we do know from the evidence that followed that that saved lives and prevented thousands of cases, getting those doses in. The one difference between Sydney at that time and Victoria this time is the rate, level of vaccination in thankfully in Victoria right now is higher than it was in Sydney at that time. But that doesn't mean the challenges is not real. And we need to address that. And I want to thank Minister Hunt for the work that he's been doing to ensure that we can respond to those needs. We've already respond directly to the request from the Victorian Government, over 100,000 Pfizer vaccines immediately made available on request. And that will go as part of the broader package to support Victoria. It goes where it's needed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, with these extra supplies now secured, will Australia continue to need to borrow from other countries, more doses? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, our challenge was always going to be this month. And we have 11 million mRNA vaccines coming in October and again in November. And in September, that's where we needed to bridge that gap. And we did. We'll have 11 million mRNA vaccines here in Australia this month. And that was the target. That was the job that we had to do. And we've been able to fill that gap. And that means we've been able to bring forward a further month with what we were hoping to achieve. You'll remember at the start of this year, we had hoped that we would have enough vaccines to be able to ensure that everyone had two doses, could have those two doses if they chose to in October, late October. And then with the challenges we had with AstraZeneca and, of course, the non supply of the AstraZeneca from overseas in the early phases of the programme that had to be pushed back. Well we've caught up the ground, that's the good news. We've caught up the ground. And the good news today for families is that families can go and get vaccinated together at their pharmacy. I think it's tremendous. We're going to see 3,600 pharmacies right across the country really now joining this, have already been doing vaccines in other parts of the programme, but the Moderna vaccine, which is just like the Pfizer vaccine for everybody who might be listening and watching. It's just like the Pfizer vaccine and all of the vaccines that had been approved by the TGA are incredibly effective, and this is another one of those, and that will mean that particularly starting those 12 to 15 year olds will start tomorrow, that will really give greater impetus to, I think, getting ahead with that programme as well threshold. 

JOURNALIST: As we look ahead to that 70 per cent double dose threshold. Do you think pubs should open before schools?

PRIME MINISTER: I am very keen to see kids back to school. I'm incredibly keen to see kids back at school. And the evidence that we're seeing about transmission amongst young people of school age, I think very much supports, very much supports getting kids back to school. 

JOURNALIST: Given the AFL Grand Final won't be held at the MCG, some in Victoria saying why not use that night, Grand Final eve, as a good opportunity to have the vaccination hub at the MCG. How would you feel about that? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they probably might prefer to do it on the day before, which is a public holiday in Melbourne. They probably want to watch the grand final on Grand Final Day unless I misheard you. 

JOURNALIST: No, Grand Final eve. 

PRIME MINISTER: Grand Final eve, sorry I thought you meant Grand Final Day, you'd be flat out getting Melburnians away from their televisions on Grand Final Day for any purpose whatsoever. And I imagine more broadly around the country. But no, look, I'm aware of that proposal and there are sufficient doses that are available to support an initiative like that. And if that's what the Victorian Government would seek to do, then obviously we'd work with them on that. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the road ahead in terms of international borders, where are we at in terms of when and how those borders will open? What do you say to concerns that we'd leave it too late to find carriers [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the opening up of travel for Australians who are fully vaccinated is contingent upon us reaching the 80 per cent vaccination targets. Now we are fast approaching that. And that's why we've already been working there for many months to put in place the record of vaccination that will comply with what's called ICAO. That's the international organisation that oversees the documentation. And the various information that is needed to facilitate travel. Minister Robert has been ensuring that those record of vaccinations are in a position to be able to be used, and that's very close to completion. So that won't be a challenge as far as I'm aware. And I don't believe it will be. There on that job. And they have been for many, many months to get that right. So, no, I don't see that being a challenge, at least from from our end. We'll ensure that that certificate, that registration, that record of vaccination can comply with all the international travel requirements. 

The other thing that is necessary, though, is that we need home quarantine in place. For Australians who are fully vaccinated to travel overseas and return home, they need to be able to quarantine at home. That way you can lift the caps. Australians who are overseas who have been vaccinated with vaccines that are recognised by the TGA, if they can quarantine at home, well these caps, we can say goodbye to for vaccinated travellers. We can say goodbye. And I look forward to doing that. And the only thing that will prevent that is not having a home quarantine programme in place. I've already written to the premiers and chief ministers following up our early discussions about this. We've already got trials running in South Australia. In New South Wales, I know they're progressing their home quarantine arrangements here. Also in Western Australia, they've been running a form of home quarantine with the digital lab there, which is proving to be quite effective for a lot of their domestic quarantine arrangements. So the technology is there to do it. It's just important that the states get in a position to scale that up, so vaccinated Australians, once we hit 80 per cent, can take off again. 

JOURNALIST: When we talk about the lockdown [inaudible] in New South Wales, [inaudible] the question of COVID Disaster Payment. How long will that need to stay in place to ensure that the recovery efforts continue? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if Australia is open, if New South Wales is open and the businesses are open and the jobs are back, then the need for that type of support changes with that. I mean, that's just, that's just an obvious point. 

JOURNALIST: Will they be lifted if the lockdowns are over?

PRIME MINISTER: The Treasurer is working through those details with the states and territories. And this is why the 70 per cent mark is a very important one. You don't just go full throttle with 80 per cent. The 70 per cent was designed as part of our national plan to ensure that we could ease back in to the arrangements we have at 80 per cent. And you can see that with the arrangements the New South Wales Government has put in place. And so how the economic support sit around that, I think is part of that transition. But what Australians need is not COVID Disaster Payments. What they need is their jobs back and their businesses they work at open again. And to achieve that, we need to keep getting vaccinated. We keep opening Australia up. And what businesses need is not economic support. They want their customers back. They want their doors open again. And that's what the national plan is. And that's what everybody getting vaccinated achieves, getting back to that is where we need to be. And that will mean that the Australian taxpayer will be able to, having done a tremendous job carrying Australians through, will be able to apply their resources to the many other tasks that we have as a government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, needing to get kids back to school. What do you say to calls for teachers to be required to be vaccinated and also a call for year 12 students who have suffered through COVID to be guaranteed a place in university or TAFE? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have invested massively in JobTrainer, in vocational education training places, the provision of university places and they'll be there, of course, they will be there. They were there with this year too. We made those provisions this year. And so that will continue. And I think our form on that is the best guarantee because we've done it absolutely. And the other question?

JOURNALIST: A call for teachers to, mandatory vaccination for teachers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the government isn't supporting mandatory vaccinations, except for public health reasons and very specific circumstances, as recommended by the medical expert panel. And that has been the case for aged care workers. And just to update you on aged care workers. Aged care workers today, 90.8 per cent now had their first dose and 70.5 per cent had their second doses. There's been a considerable effort that's been going in together with the states and territories to the vaccination rates. That is the requirement that is put in place by public health orders. But, you know, my simple advice is this. I should be vaccinated. You should be vaccinated. Everyone needs to be vaccinated. Everybody outside, everywhere else, whether you're a teacher, when you're a truck driver, whether you're a politician, a journalist, a camera operator, whether you happen to be driving the ferry, driving the bus, driving the tram, everyone should be getting vaccinated. That's the best thing for Australia. Now, we're not imposing it. We're not mandating it. It's your choice. It's your health. But I do know this. That when we get to the end of October, and certainly more likely before that, everyone will have had that opportunity. Everyone will have had that opportunity and we'll be approaching them. And perhaps in some states, maybe past the 80 per cent mark, we'll see. But your health is up to you, the opportunity to be vaccinated, which protects you, your family, your community that will be there for you. And so once that has been done, the country has to move on. The country has to make decisions. And we've got to ensure that Australians can get back to living their lives again, which is what the national plan is all about. Thank you very much.