Television Interview with Danica De Giorgio – Sky News – Tuesday 13 April 2021


SUBJECT: Vaccine rollout.

DANICA DE GIORGIO, HOST: It’s time to discuss the issues of the day. Joining me is Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government and Regional Services. Jason, thank you for joining me. Let’s start with the vaccine rollout. The news this morning that Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine won’t be part of our rollout at this stage as it’s too similar to the AstraZeneca jab. Given our rollout is so far behind, is that a setback?

JASON CLARE MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING: The bottom line is we need more shots in the locker. Other countries have got six or seven different vaccines, we’ve only got two or three. The big problem is last year, we didn’t sign enough contracts with enough different pharmaceutical companies to make sure we had redundancy, just in case another vaccine wasn’t up to scratch. That’s the problem we’re dealing with right now. In the United States, they vaccinated the equivalent of the entire Australian population just in the last week. But we’re now dealing with a situation here, where the Prime Minister can’t even tell us whether all Australia’s going to get vaccinated this year, or whether it’s going to take all of next year. 

DE GIORGIO: But given the updated health advice on AstraZeneca and the uncertainty, is it understandable that the government has abandoned those targets not to raise Australians’ hopes?

CLARE: We need a target. Australians want to know when they’re going to get the jab. It’s important in terms of getting things back to normal, getting people back into work that we get Australia vaccinated. The Prime Minister says this isn’t a race. He’s wrong. He said we’re not at the front of the queue. The fact is we’re being lapped right now other countries are being vaccinated at a pace around the world and as I said, in the United States, you’ve got a situation where the equivalent of the Australian population is being vaccinated just in a week. We risk now other countries opening up and getting back to work and Australia still being locked down from the rest of the world and sitting in a GP’s clinic waiting to be vaccinated. That’s why it’s important that the Prime Minister set a target. The fact that he refuses to do that just shows that he doesn’t have any confidence in when he thinks he can get all of Australia vaccinated. 

DE GIORGIO: There has been some circumstances though outside of Australia’s control, particularly when it does come to that AstraZeneca vaccine. So, what more can be done to make up for the shortfall?

CLARE: The real problem started last year where they didn’t sign enough contracts with other companies. Why don’t we have a contract with Moderna? There’s a vaccine which is underpinning the vaccination of the United States, much of Europe and the UK, we don’t have a contract with them. The government won’t tell us why. If we had more redundancy built into the vaccination program, when you have a problem like the one identified last year, you’d have another vaccine that could help to fill the bridge. What we’ve got now is a race to find other vaccines. It’s good that we’ve got more of the Pfizer vaccine. But what about Moderna? 

And what else can the government do to rebuild some of the confidence crushed last week? Danica, we’ve got to do everything we can to build confidence in the vaccination program. What happened last Thursday night butchered it. Just in my office, I’m getting phone calls from lots of people over the age of 50 who are eligible to get the AstraZeneca vaccination, that’s the vaccine that they will get, but they’re worried. They’re worried about whether they should take it, they’re delaying appointments, and the longer it takes for people to get vaccinated, the longer it’s going to take for Australia to get back to normal. There is a big task, a big task on all of us to build confidence back.

DE GIORGIO: So, what’s Labor’s solution then to the current situation and where Australia is at with this rollout?

CLARE: The Government needs to make sure that it’s got sufficient vaccines to vaccinate the country as quick as possible, and it needs to set a target to do it. It’s just not good enough for the Government to say, “we’ll get it done when it’s done”. If it takes too long, it’s going to mean that Australia is locked down from the rest of the world longer and it’s going to take longer before Australia gets the jobs back that we lost last year. 

DE GIORGIO: So, what’s Labor’s solution? 

CLARE: We’ve got to do what it takes here to speed up the rollout. I gave you one example. What’s the Government doing to sign contracts with Moderna? Mark Butler, the Shadow Minister for Health made that point yesterday. We still don’t get straight answers out of the Government about that. They should have signed extra contracts around the world last year. They failed to do that. They need to identify what they need to have sufficient redundancy here. 

Think about this, Danica. At the moment in the UK, steps are being taken to make sure that there’s booster shots for people in the third quarter of this year to deal with mutant variants of this virus, whether it’s the UK variant or whether it’s the South African variant or the Brazilian variant. In the UK, in the US, it’s likely people are going to get booster shots in the third quarter of this year. At the same time here in Australia, most Australians won’t even have their first shot. The longer it takes to get people vaccinated, the longer it’s going to take to get things back to normal. That’s why I say this, the Government needs to set a target here to get Australia vaccinated as safely and as quickly as possible. 

DE GIORGIO: Jason Clare, we have to leave it there. Thank you for joining me this morning.

CLARE: Thanks.