Australia’s health boss has admitted he does not know the answer to a key question about the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
Australia’s health boss has admitted he does not know the answer to a key question about the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Vaccine question health boss can’t answer

Health Department boss Brendan Murphy has revealed he does not know how many Australians in phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout have had the jab.

Appearing before a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Dr Murphy could only say he believed the "great majority" of the group had received the shot.

"Nearly all states, I think with the exception perhaps of one, have said that all of their border and quarantine workers are completely protected," he said.

"The states are also reporting that they believe that the vast majority of their 1A healthcare workers are also protected."

Brendan Murphy has admitted he does not know how many people in 1A have received the jab. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Brendan Murphy has admitted he does not know how many people in 1A have received the jab. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

In the aged care sector, Dr Murphy said there had been 115,000 first doses and 62,000 second doses.

At state and territory clinics, there had been a total of 662,000 shots, but there was no breakdown on whether the people were in group 1A and 1B.

Dr Murphy told the committee he was trying to get that information.

He also said he expected aged care vaccinations to be completed in May.

"It's going extremely efficiently now," he said.

Anne Hyslop receives her COVID-19 vaccine at the Albert Park Medical Centre. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw
Anne Hyslop receives her COVID-19 vaccine at the Albert Park Medical Centre. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw

In the disability sector, there had been a rollout of just 6.5 per cent, with associate secretary Caroline Edwards admitting it had been "a very minor part of our program to date".

Dr Murphy said the disability sector was still considered an extremely high priority group.

"But the risk of severe illness and death is significantly greater in the residential aged care population," he said.

"The single biggest risk of death and severe COVID is age.

"The complexity of aged care meant that we had to prioritise to get that group protected at the same time as trying to get disability started.

"We're very cognisant of the fact that we need to now ramp up, as aged care is coming to completion and rapidly get into disability care."

 

Asked about a timeframe for the broader vaccine rollout, Dr Murphy said he remained concerned about hesitancy in the community.

"We believe very strongly that AstraZeneca … is highly effective and safe," he said.

"We will share targets when we have them, but I can't give you an exact prediction at the moment."

Dr Murphy said Australia would continue to talk to "a number of companies" about other vaccines.

Asked specifically about Moderna, he said even if Australia struck up a deal with Moderna, it was unlikely that it would be available before Pfizer, suggesting it would be late this year.

Originally published as Vaccine question health boss can't answer