The nation’s top health authorities say Australia is not behind in the race to obtain a coronavirus vaccine.
The nation’s top health authorities say Australia is not behind in the race to obtain a coronavirus vaccine.

Australia ‘well in front’ of vaccine queue

Australia is not "at the back of the queue" for a coronavirus vaccine, former chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says.

A committee investigating the COVID-19 response on Friday was told the Federal Government could make an announcement in coming weeks.

Department of Health secretary Dr Murphy said Australia had made a "non-binding" commitment to be part of a COVAX initiative, a movement to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country.

When asked why Australia was yet to contribute financially to COVAX, Dr Murphy said it was being considered.

"We have been closely following all of the vaccine developments, we are actively discussing with all of the so far successful candidates, we are not at the back of the queue," Dr Murphy said.

"There will be further announcements shortly.

"We are well in front of the queue."

Dr Murphy said Australia had the capacity to manufacture a vaccine onshore, with biotechnology company CSL's Victorian plant being flagged for repurposing.

"We are in very advanced commercially sensitive negotiations," he said, adding it would take just weeks to begin production.

Department of Health secretary Dr Brendan Murphy said there was not a country in the world with the community transmission the size of Victoria that had been able to avoid substantial aged-care outbreaks and deaths. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Department of Health secretary Dr Brendan Murphy said there was not a country in the world with the community transmission the size of Victoria that had been able to avoid substantial aged-care outbreaks and deaths. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

Dr Murphy, who appeared at the Aged Care Royal Commission this week, again raised issues with comments made by the senior counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC.
Mr Rozen told the commission "not all that could be done was done" and deaths in the sector were among the worst in the world.

But Dr Murphy called the assessment "misleading" and said it was "an extraordinary interpretation of statistics".

"We have had tragic deaths in aged care, but it is only 0.1 per cent of aged-care residents compared to 5 per cent in the UK," he said.

"We can always look at what we could have done better, but we did a lot of preparation.

"Every single facility in Victoria has personal protective equipment, they've had PPE training. We've got rapid response teams on site. We've got testing teams on site.

"We have been pushing, from the outset, to control community transmission."

Small outbreaks were occurring in Victorian aged-care facilities in June, but growing concern became crisis talks when cases began rising towards 100 a day.

Residents were removed from St Basil’s aged-care facility in Melbourne following an outbreak that claimed the lives of several Victorians. Picture: Jason Edwards
Residents were removed from St Basil’s aged-care facility in Melbourne following an outbreak that claimed the lives of several Victorians. Picture: Jason Edwards

 

Acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said he couldn't name a date when growing concern moved to crisis talks - first naming July 10 before asking to take it on notice.

The nation's expert medical panel has also wound back its daily meetings; however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to have morning briefings about the aged-care crisis.

The Government is also discussing more mental health support as Victoria remains in stage 4 lockdowns.

Dr Murphy again refused to release a full list of the aged-care facilities infected with COVID-19 for fear of damaging the homes' reputations.

At least 125 facilities have had coronavirus, but Dr Murphy said more than half had not had a significant outbreak.

He said where there were significant outbreaks, it was reasonable for the public to know.

The Government is expected to make a decision on whether the full list should be made public in the next week.

Officials from the Digital Transformation Agency were also grilled over the effectiveness of the CovidSafe app but rejected claims it had failed in Victoria.

Department of Treasury and Australian Taxation Office officials will also give evidence to the inquiry.

More to come

 

Originally published as Australia 'well in front' of vaccine queue



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