COVID-19: Vaccination Take Note of Answers

After 20-odd years in the military, one thing I have learnt is that the old saying that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy is true. You can plan. You make your plan on the basis of your analysis of the situation and assumptions. But, when facts change, the person who is going to win the battle is the person who is prepared to be flexible and use the basis of that planning as the basis for new plans to respond to situations. And so it is globally, as we look at the changing situation with COVID, that the very best laid plans will have to change as the facts on the ground change.

With ATAGI being the independent expert group in Australia who advises the government and national cabinet—so, governments of our states and territories as well—about the efficacy of vaccines, there are those considerations, coupled with supply considerations, that at times are outside the control of the Australian government. So, we look at some of the well-advertised situations where supply has been limited in terms of exports from Europe and other places. Those are factors that will impact on a plan. A good military, a good government and a good deliverer of an outcome in a global pandemic not seen for 100 years is one that can adapt to the circumstances and the facts as they arise—as opposed to sticking rigidly with a plan or being unwilling or afraid to articulate a plan upfront. The whole concept of delivery means looking at the circumstances, making a plan based on the information available and then using that information to adapt and move forward. The information that is considered by national cabinet includes those supply constraints, includes the information from ATAGI about effectiveness, and then provides the best available information to people who are delivering services in the interests of the Australian people.

The Coordinator General of Operation COVID Shield is Lieutenant General Frewen. I believe part of the reason the military play a critical role in times of national disasters like floods, fires and pandemics is that they are good at planning, adapting and delivering. General Frewen has updated the planning projections for Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses for the jurisdictions for the remainder of 2021. As delivered, that information is valid. But the reality of life is that it may change. It is important that, rather than complain that the facts have changed, people know how to adapt and how to optimise available resources. General Frewen has indicated that the Commonwealth is fast-tracking plans to expand the number of access points for Pfizer. By the end of July, all 136 Commonwealth vaccination clinics and around 1,300 GPs will be administering Prizer, and many more primary care providers will be offered the chance to administer the mRNA vaccines as the supply of Prizer significantly increases and the first supplies of Moderna arrive in September and October.

General Frewen was able to indicate that with the adaptation that has occurred, using that basis of planning to respond to the new facts on the ground, Australia is still on track with the expected supply picture to offer every eligible person in Australia a first dose of a COVID vaccine by the end of 2021. It’s important to understand that. It’s also important to understand that many vaccines have already been delivered. Last Monday was a record for vaccines. We’ve had 63,000, and then 119,000—these are the kinds of figures we’re now getting—and the figure of 128,000 on this most recent Monday shows that Australians are taking up the vaccine. That’s a really important thing, because it means that more than 65 per cent of over-70s are protected, more than 45 per cent of over-50s are protected and more than one in four of the eligible population aged over 16 years are protected. So, facts will change, but good planning means you can adapt to the new facts and continue to deliver the outcome that Australians need.