Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID 19: Vaccine
My question today goes to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on Australia's health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the encouraging developments in the search for a vaccine and how critically important this is to our country's economic comeback?
I thank the member for Fairfax, who has been a great champion for Bloomhill Cancer Care and the care that they provide to people who are most in need. On the subject of those most in need, shortly before coming to question time, I was given the very heartening news by the National Incident Centre that today there are zero Australians with COVID-19 on ventilation, there are zero Australians with COVID-19 in ICU and there have again been zero cases of community transmission right across Australia. That achievement comes against the background of a world with over 68 million cases, with over 1.55 million lives agonisingly lost and, in the last week, the two highest days with regard to daily case numbers and daily lives lost. The extent and scope of COVID-19 is greater than ever. We know that in Australia, over that same period, there was one case in seven days of community transmission and 69 cases within the hotel quarantine scheme. What that says is these are cases coming from overseas and so we as a nation will not be truly safe until the world is safe and safely vaccinated.
Our vaccination program is a critical part of that, and we have taken the advice of the scientific experts and will continue to take their advice. SITAG, or the Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group, led by Professor Murphy, has been fundamental. Its advice has been critical in our selection of vaccines and will be critical and fundamental going forwards. Significantly, there are over—
Mr Hill interjecting—
There are over 48 vaccines in human clinical trials and over 10 vaccines that are currently in phase 3 of clinical trials. Our scientific committee has led us to the position where three of our vaccines are within the group of 10, which is a wonderful result. The Pfizer vaccine has already had approval within the United Kingdom on an emergency basis. What we've seen today is the AstraZeneca vaccine has now had Lancet publication of fundamentally important results. That's great news for Australia. As we sit here in parliament, the AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced in Melbourne by CSL. That domestic production capacity is helping Australians. It may even allow us to expand our production capacity and to accelerate that process of what we're doing. These things are critical for saving lives and protecting lives, and giving us a strong 2021 and a safe 2021.