'Permanently on the brink': Top doctor's warning for Australia

Nadine Carroll and Ash Cant
·4-min read

The Acting Chief Medical Officer of Australia has warned that while Australia is currently free of widespread community transmission, there is always the possibility of another Covid-19 outbreak.

"We are permanently at risk of being on the brink of another outbreak," Professor Michael Kidd warned on Monday.

"There will be inevitably more cases of community transmission, especially when our nation starts to open up further to the rest of the world," he said at a press conference. 

He added Australia's population needs to be protected by getting a Covid-19 vaccine, despite ongoing issues with the sluggish rollout

Professor Michael Kidd
'We are permanently at risk of being on the brink of another outbreak': Professor Michael Kidd. Source: AAP

As the federal government tries to ramp up the vaccine rollout, Prof Kidd sought to assuage fears over potential side effects of the jab most Australians will get.

He said it was important to note from the overseas experience that one to two cases of thrombosis have been recorded in one million people who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"By contrast, we know that the risk of death from Covid-19 remains at one to two deaths per 100 people infected," he said.

Australian Medical Association ACT president Antonio Di Dio told reporters that getting vaccinated was a crucial step in tackling this "ghastly illness".

"We are very, very optimistic about the effectiveness of the vaccine and we encourage very strongly all Australians who are eligible to check that eligibility," he said.

A man infected with the South African strain of the virus remains in a critical condition in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Chief Medical Officer unable to answer 'fundamental' question

Almost 842,000 doses have been administered since Australia's rollout started more than a month ago, albeit well short of the four million vaccinations originally promised by the Morrison government by the end of March.

The government expects the program will also now speed up with Australian biotech giant CSL pumping out the AstraZeneca vaccine for domestic use.

CSL has committed to locally producing over one million doses of the the AstraZeneca vaccine each week to meet the 50 million target by the end of the year.

However when Professor Kidd was asked to confirm exactly how many doses CSL had produced so far he was unable to answer the question. Nor could he say when the company will reach its stated goal of producing a million weekly doses.

CSL will be locally producing the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed around Australia. Source: AAP
CSL will be locally producing the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed around Australia. Source: AAP

"So, I can't actually give you the figures," he said, when asked how many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine CSL was producing per week.

He was then questioned by a reporter as to why he could not provide the figure at the press conference.

"I don't have the figures available here right now," he said, before moving on to another question.

It comes amid growing criticism of the Morrison government for a lack of transparency around the sluggish rollout as blame games erupt between the federal and state governments.

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"Australia's Acting Chf Medical Boss can't answer pretty fundamental question .. how much vaccine is CSL producing a week now and when will it get to 1m/week," ABC's Joe O'Brien tweeted.

"This is a mess. Transparency increases confidence and this roll out is a black box," one Twitter user said in response to O'Brien's tweet.

Speaking to The Project on Monday night, UNSW professor Richard Holden called the federal rollout "a disaster" and called on the government to be more forthcoming with data around the scheme.

"The feds should level with us," he said. 

"Stand up every day and say here's how much of the vaccine we've purchased, this is how many jabs have gone into arms, and this is the rate we expect it to progress."

Meanwhile a Sky News journalist accused the government of being deliberately vague and evasive after coping heat for missing early projections so badly.

"I suspect Michael Kidd does know but he is hamstrung by the Government鈥檚 new strategy," Laura Jayes tweeted Sunday.

"The new strategy is to be as vague as possible, so it can鈥檛 be accused of missing targets. A cynical political exercise on one of the most important public health measures of our time." 

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With AAP

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