Sky News – Vaccine Rollout

TUESDAY, 24 August 2021

SUBJECT: Vaccine rollout; COVID outbreaks around Australia; lockdowns

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: We go live now to the Labor MP Peter Khalil. Peter, good to see you, thanks for your time this morning, just on Victoria, first of all it seems as though you’re at the start, again, of what New south Wales experienced, which ultimately led to the virus being out of control. Do you fear that the Delta variant is now out of control in Victoria?

PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, I don’t know Pete – good morning, by the way, I should say, first of all I hope you’re well – but we are at a tipping point in Victoria. There are restrictions here, which are meant to try and get on top of this outbreak of the Delta variant here in Victoria. And we hope we don’t get to where New South Wales is or where New South Wales currently is because these are tough. These restrictions are tough, the lockdown is tough and we are really, Victorians are feeling a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of mental health issues. So I think the broader issue though, Pete, is that we are obviously taking these actions in Victoria by the state government to try and take, get control over this outbreak. The key that we’re all talking about here is at what point do we start to ease restrictions? It was the Doherty modeling that has been reported at 70%. It would have been great to be able to get to open up at that 70% from a much lower base of cases, for example, than you have in New South Wales, and I think that’s what the Victorian government is trying to get to.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. And you’ve seen this overnight, the Doherty Institute saying it doesn’t matter whether it’s 30 cases a day, or whether it’s hundreds of cases a day, you’re on the same trajectory. And ultimately you will hit your peak faster if you’ve got a higher case load. So is this an example of how we can, and we should move to the next level and ease restrictions from 70%.

KHALIL: So, a couple of points about this and you raise a very, very important question. When you get to that 70 or 80% based on that Doherty modeling, what does matter though, is an intervening period where you still got unvaccinated population, the Delta getting out of hand. And we’re seeing obviously, people dying in New South Wales. So Victoria is trying to avoid that situation. I mean, New South Wales under lockdown, we’re under lockdown, but we’re trying to avoid the higher death rate. If you look at the statistics in the UK, for example, back in January, this year, there were 30 – 40,000 cases a day. The fatality rate was quite high. It was a thousand, 1500 deaths a day. Now with the Delta variant, with a vaccinated population or adult population of the UK, you’re looking at 30,000 cases a day, but the fatality rate much lower, about a hundred, sometimes 50 or 60 people. So there’s a question of tolerance about whether Australia can tolerate opening up and having a high number of cases, but a much lower fatality rate, which is what gives what you get with a more vaccinated population. But there’s a couple of unanswered questions which Scott Morrison needs to deal with. One is children. When are you going to vaccinate children? Because parents –

STEFANOVIC: Well the ATAGI advice on that is coming on Friday.

KHALIL: Well, I mean, that is very important. And then also booster shots. And again, this goes back to his inability to actually get enough supply.

STEFANOVIC: What do you mean? Well, booster shots are going to be coming next year, at some point. I think the priority is to be able to get the jabs into people’s arms first of all.

KHALIL: Well here’s the point though, you look at Israel’s statistics Pete and they are 78% fully vaccinated in the adult population. Their cases are going up again with a Delta variant, but half of those go around half of those cases are vaccinated people who are getting the Delta variant and of those, the many, many of those are the older Israelis over 60, who got the vaccination very early on in January. So the efficacy starts to wear off. So they need booster shots. They’re getting the booster shots again, Scott Morrison should be planning for all of this. Where is his plan for booster shots? So you’re talking about next year, that might not be good enough for older Australians.

STEFANOVIC: So just to be clear: do you want to see restrictions begin to ease from 70% vaccination rates as per the Doherty Institute modelling?

KHALIL: I think we all want restrictions to ease and the question is going to be whether Scott Morrison has planned well enough to get enough vaccination, to get children vaccinated, to get up to the 70, 80% to get booster shots and supply in to older Australians where the efficacy might be wearing off, if they got the vaccination earlier in the year.

STEFANOVIC: Do you believe, like the Prime Minister said yesterday, we’ve got to change the mindset.

KHALIL: Well, Australia, I mean, we’re going to be in a patchy place here because some states like WA obviously have no COVID at all. So the question is going to be, if Australia opens up and New South Wales is obviously heading in that direction and other states do so (Victoria might) when we get on top of this Delta and so on what’s going to happen? Are we going to have hard borders across states again to prevent –

STEFANOVIC: Well that would be a question for the premiers, wouldn’t it? Have they gone rogue, has Queensland and WA’s Premiers gone rogue?

KHALIL: We have different Premiers doing different things and all sorts of variables that are different in every state. It is a difficult proposition. I think, as a federal MP, what I would like to see obviously is us getting to a point where we have very, very high vaccination rates up to 70, 80%, children vaccinated, booster shots in place. And again, making sure that the federal government shows some national leadership because they have failed with the slow vaccine roll out. I don’t want to see another failure with respect to vaccinations for children, or boosters for older Australians who now may become more vulnerable near the end of the year, early next year. And then to start to ease restrictions. It’s still going to be, has to be, public health efforts: track and tracing, quarantine, isolation and all of that, to try and manage the Delta. But I don’t personally believe we can have a zero COVID situation. It’s just not possible. If you look at the global examples.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, okay. I think you’re right too. Peter Khalil, appreciate that.