Doorstop with the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer

Transcript
18 Feb 2018
Albert Park Bowls Club, Victoria
Prime Minister, Minister for Health
Vaccination; Barnaby Joyce; Gun Control
E&OE
Health and Social Services

PRIME MINISTER:

Well hi everyone, what a beautiful day.

So we’re here at the Albert Park Bowling Club talking about healthy ageing, and we’ve seen some very very healthy older Australians here today, but we want them to be healthier still.

So I’m here with the Health Minister Greg Hunt, Senator James Paterson, Senator for Victoria and the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy to talk about two new flu vaccines, Fluad® and Fluzone High Dose® Plus which are going onto the National Immunisation Program and they will be freely available to the over 65s.

This is going to be critically important, we had a very extreme flu season last year and having these two new vaccines for reasons Greg and the Chief Medical Officer will explain, is going to protect millions of older Australians.

So Greg, why don’t you say a little bit more about this and our commitment to the National Immunisation Program and Brendan you can explain the added antigens in one of the vaccines and the adjuvant in the other. Good.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH:

There you go. We’re working with the Prime Minister on those medical definitions and that was 10/10.

[Laughter]

So very briefly these new vaccines are about saving lives, protecting lives as part of a broader national immunisation program, which is nearly $500 billion and that’s helping our young people, families, lifelong protection and in particular today – the seniors.

Along with the Chief Medical Officer we’ve focused on ensuring that this year we would have the best available drugs from around the world to provide the new vaccination regime, and the two new vaccines are about giving Australians the best chance at getting through the flu season with as little impact as possible.

We know that the over 65s they are more vulnerable but this is part of our flu vaccination program, its an important breakthrough.

And in particular I want to congratulate the Chief Medical Officer and all involved in securing the supplies that Australia needs so we have international priority through their negotiation with pharmaceutical  houses, best available drugs, the best available protection to ensure that Australia’s seniors have the best protection in the world. Brendan?

Professor Brendan Murphy - Chief Medical Officer:

Thank you Minister.

So these vaccines are to address the problem that the over 65s tend to have a weaker response to standard flu vaccines. They don’t tend to produce the same amount of antibody and therefore the same amount of protection.

So these vaccines have a way of enhancing that immune response, two different ways. One of them has more of the kill virus antigen in it that produces stronger immune response. And the other one has a standard amount of the antigen but has what’s called an adjuvant, a chemical which tickles up the immune system to respond better.

So in studies overseas both of them have been shown to provide a stronger antibody response in the over 65s and therefore more likely to give much better protection than we’ve seen in recent years where we’ve seen waning protection from the standard vaccines for the elderly.

I would like to congratulate the two companies involved who worked really hard to get us access to these vaccines in probably one of the shortest periods of time I’ve ever seen something getting processed through to the National Immunisation Program.

Its important to note that the under 65s will still have the very very high quality standard flu vaccines that we’ve had in previous years. They’ve worked very well in the under 65s, many people under 65 of various indications will get that on the National Immunisation Program. But others who aren’t eligible for that can get the flu vaccine very cheaply, sometimes generally less than $20 and we encourage all Australians when the new seasons flu vaccines are available in April to get vaccinated.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good. So do we have questions?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull how would describe the tone of your meeting with Barnaby Joyce yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Frank and warm, friendly, good, constructive.

JOURNALIST:

Can you continue to work with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course, of course.

JOURNALIST:

Did you apologise to him?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, there was nothing to apologise for.

JOURNALIST:

Did you tell him that he’d damaged the reputation of the Coalition.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I’m not going to go into the discussions of a private conversation.

It was a frank discussion between the leaders of our two Coalition parties, who have been working together for – through our predecessor parties for 95 years. It’s the most enduring political alliance in Australian history and it will continue.

JOURNALIST:

Was there any agreement yesterday between the two of you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are continuing to – we are working together as we always do.

We have a you know a vast array of challenges to deal with in terms of delivering stronger economic growth, more jobs, making sure our big infrastructure projects are completed whether it’s the NBN, whether it’s the Inland Rail, whether it’s the big infrastructure investments here into roads and rail in Victoria.

So the fact is the government has a lot of work to do, and Barnaby and I always have a lot to discuss.

JOURNALIST:

Has he given assurances, or have you sought assurances that this is the only instances of inappropriate sexual behavior?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look again I’m not, I don’t want to go into a – that sort of you know examination. I can assure you that the relations are very strong. I know there was a great excitement in the media there was some Coalition clash. There are no issues between the Liberal and National Parties at all. None at all and we are working very closely together on a very wide range- all of the huge you know wide range of issues that affect the government.

Now I’m really sorry you don’t have an interest in flu vaccines or learning more about adjuvants, let alone enhanced (inaudible).

But I suspect that’s possibly because none of you are over 65.

[Laughter]

JOURNALIST:

Would you support the Nationals replacing Barnaby Joyce?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, thank you, I can see you have no interest in flu vaccines either. So if there’s nothing more on health I think I’ve again said what needed to be said on Thursday and I don’t need to repeat that here.

The important thing is to get on with the job of delivering good government for Australia.

JOURNALIST:

So what exactly did the meeting achieve.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s always very unimportant to meet, to work through the various challenges and issues that we face. Now the important thing is Barnaby and I are working closely together as we always have, he’s obviously taking leave coming this week and we look forward to him returning from that at the end of the week.

Now on that – if there’s nothing else. Thank you all very much on this beautiful Melbourne day. Thanks a lot, thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Just on another topic, what do have to say to the American president on the issue of gun control in the wake of the latest massacre, what your advice?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh. Well that’s a very good question and this will be the last one.

Look we don’t tell other countries how to manage their firearms policies. But obviously Australia’s is one of the strictest in the world.

We have a great deal to thank John Howard, and indeed Tim Fisher who was the Leader of the Nationals at the time for taking up the leadership challenge after the shocking Port Arthur Massacre and introducing our tough firearms laws, which as you know dramatically restricted the range of firearms that are available.

The United States has a very different culture in respect of guns. It’s a very, very intense political debate there but in terms of policy nothing speaks more eloquently than the leadership of John Howard and the effectiveness of the laws he put into place more than 20 years ago.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]