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20 Apr 2020

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Elective surgery and IVF could resume within days with the National Cabinet expected to discuss lifting the ban when it meets tomorrow. It comes after Australia received 58 million face masks to protect health workers from COVID-19 and the flu with a further $100 million set to arrive before the end of May.

Meanwhile, flu vaccine manufacturing is being ramped up with an extra three million flu shots secured. The additional supplies mean more than 16 million people will be able to get vaccinated this season and there will be a rush.

For more, I'm joined by AMA President Dr Tony Bartone. Doctor, good morning to you.

TONY BARTONE: Good morning, Sam.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Record number of flu vaccines and we know why. There will be a mass panic for these. Will it be enough for everyone who wants one?

TONY BARTONE: Good morning, Sam. And yes, it will be enough for everyone. It's about making an appointment and have a sensible pace returned to getting those flu vaccines. We've had some pressure, we've had some distribution problems lately, but with this announcement, we know we'll have enough stock, and it's just about being patient, making an appointment with your doctor and having that flu vaccine in the coming weeks through the month of May.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay. So every other year when things are normal, whatever normal is these days, we're told not to go too early to get the flu shot, that you should wait because the flu doesn't really peak until July. So should we be trying to line up now or can we afford to wait a little bit longer?

TONY BARTONE: That's a good question, Sam. Look, this year, we've started perhaps a little bit early because of the threat of COVID-19 and because we did have some early reports of increased influenza activity. But with the social distancing measures, with the success of those, with the suppression of some of the influenza cases as well because of that, we've got some time up our sleeve.

So it's about ensuring that we've got that protection right through to the month of July, August when we know that influenza will peak. But now is the perfect time to make that appointment. And as I say, right through to the end of May is the opportunity to have that vaccinations to protect you against influenza.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay. And just quickly, Doctor, all these facemasks have now arrived. Fantastic news. And that- the shortage of those masks was one of the reasons elective surgery was being postponed. So will that slowly come back online now, elective surgery, do you think?

TONY BARTONE: Certainly, the shortage of masks is one of the reasons why elective surgery was put on hold. It was also about ensuring that we had bed capacity and we had the time to prepare for that COVID- 19 surge in demand. We've been so successful so far that that's given us the opportunity now to plan a sensible, safe, graduated return into the low-risk procedures which provide clinical benefit to patients and allow us to not ensure we don’t have, you know, ramping up waiting lists when we come out of the COVID-19 crisis.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay. Great news. Tony Bartone, thank you for your time.

20 April 2020

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Published: 20 Apr 2020