Dr Chris Moy - TGA provisional approval of Pfizer vaccine

25 Jan 2021

Transcript:   AMA Vice President, Dr Chris Moy, Sky News, AM Agenda with Gabriella Power, Monday, 25 January 2021

Subject:   TGA provisionally approves Pfizer vaccine.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  Dr Chris Moy, the Australian Medical Association Vice President joins us now. The Pfizer jab has just been approved for use. Do you welcome the news?

CHRIS MOY:                                                Yeah. It's great news that we've gone through all the proper checks, unlike overseas, and we've been able to approve this. I think now comes the enormous task of epic proportions of actually getting the vaccine out there now. There'll be a delay because of batch testing where the vaccine still has to come to Australia, and we're going to batch test them to make sure they're absolutely right. And then afterwards it then becomes this huge, huge endeavour which is going to be incredibly important to protect the Australian community.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  There are fears that the vaccine won't protect against mutant variants. Is this a big concern of yours?

CHRIS MOY:                                                Well look, I think there is actually work on this. I attended a thing from the WHO just a week and a bit ago and they're looking at this. At this stage there's no concern that there is an issue with the current vaccines, but the fact that the vaccines have moved does make us wonder whether in the future that is a possibility.

The good news is that the newer technology, particularly with the MRNA vaccine, which is the Pfizer, Moderna and also the AstraZeneca, is that these vaccines theoretically can be tweaked reasonably quickly to actually adjust them if there are changes to the virus. So that's actually good news. So, I think the combination of new technologies is actually a reassurance, but we have to be watching and we have to be keeping up with this virus.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  And should Australia be increasing our vaccine portfolio?

CHRIS MOY:                                                Look, that's a very good thought. I think this is all happening in the background. A lot of it is occurring and everybody is wondering why we don't we have contracts with every single vaccine and this sort of work is happening behind the scenes - there's a lot of, you know, smoke and mirrors with this whole thing about countries and companies saying: I'm going to make a billion and I'm going to make a million and countries saying they're buying lots.

What we've seen already is that really the supply is actually a lot harder. And the main message from the Australian strategy has to make sure that we at least have the reassurance of some local supply, which is really our manufacturer, which is the AstraZeneca and the Novavax later, that will be able to make these vaccines later which is really important to have that as a backup. And then all this  other sorts of working out of, of what other vaccines we may be able to purchase based on evidence is actually occurring in the background.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  Well, today's certainly a big step in the right direction. Today, Australia's marked its one-year anniversary of our first coronavirus case. We've obviously done such a great job, but with the benefit of hindsight, what could've we done better?

CHRIS MOY:                                                I don't think we should be too hard on ourselves as a country. I mean, I still remember you know, frankly the dread and fear that I had of the looming storm last year because I knew what was going on behind the scenes and I think we've come a long way. I mean, I see our drive-through testing, our contact tracing is really come on, too. And the most important thing is the Australian community - and that is governments, the health system, you know, all the people out the front lines, like the police and the cleaners and things like that - they've held together, and the community has held together. And what they've done is really, as a country, we've held together by our basing decisions on science and health.

We haven't fallen for the three-card trick of the whole, just go for the economics - because that's been a false economy, because you see the countries that have done this they've virtually fallen on their sword - but also that we haven't got caught up in the misinformation. We've held together and we should be proud of it, but we also need to be- continue to be vigilant because of these variants and changes. This virus is moving, so let's stay the course, get this vaccine programme going and protect the community.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  There are still thousands of Australians stranded overseas. Labor is calling for Australia to make better use of regional quarantine facilities to bring Australians back home. Do you think this is a good idea?

CHRIS MOY:                                                Look, I actually kind of know what's behind in the background, and understand the massive problem that the Government have got. They want to bring everybody back because Australians over there are really struggling. I understand the flipside is they're the most likely to bring the very bad variants, for example, back into Australia. The idea of taking it to regional areas behind the scenes is actually a very, very difficult one because it's the logistical issues of, first up, getting a huge cohort of staff - that's police, medical workers, cleaners, security guards - to go out to country and work to build these facilities is a huge one. It's not as simple as it sounds. They are being investigated. And they're right for certain places, like in the Northern Territory and it may be something we may consider in the future, but it is a huge logistical exercise.

And for example, we had some issues in South Australia where people were kept in the country without significant medical support. And when people deteriorated quickly with COVID, it was quite scary. So, you know, all those things have to be taken into account. What we should be doing is plugging all the holes that we can now, and go absolutely as hard as we can, making sure there's enough protection now to keep it under control because it is our first line of defence.

GABRIELLA POWER:                                  It is. And New Zealand's recorded its first COVID case from hotel quarantine, or coming out of hotel quarantine. Is this a big concern for a country that hasn't recorded a case in more than two months?

CHRIS MOY:                                                Well, it does show that this virus is very sneaky and it's moving and it is possible that it's one of the new variants. There has been concern about these new variants being maybe contagious for longer or turning up a bit later and that's why this may have occurred. We do need a bit of information about that.

But that's an extra reason we've got to get on with these vaccination programmes. We can't muck around. It's a huge logistical exercise, it's all-hands-on deck, because once we get the population vaccinated, we'll at least have the majority protected, and that'll actually give some relief to the decision making and we can start making plans hopefully to, to at least have a life which is a little bit closer to where it was before.

GABRIELLA POWER: AMA Vice President Dr Chris Moy, appreciate your time this morning.

CHRIS MOY:   It's a pleasure.