Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:15): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. Can the minister update the Senate on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and how Australia’s health outcomes compare to those in other countries?
Senator COLBECK (Tasmania—Minister for Sport and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services) (14:16): Thank you, Senator Henderson, for your question. On both health and economic fronts, Australia has fared better than most countries in dealing with COVID-19. Australians have been rolling up to get vaccinated, and I join everyone in the chamber, I think, in thanking them for doing that—for protecting themselves, for protecting their loved ones and for protecting the country. More than 91 per cent of the eligible population over 16 are now protected against COVID-19 with a first dose. Of the 38 developed OECD countries, Australia has had the second-lowest number of COVID-19 cases per capita. The USA and the UK have had more than 40 times the number of COVID deaths compared to Australia. For example, over 12 per cent of people in the US and 11 per cent of people in the UK have had COVID. By contrast, 0.4 per cent of Australians have had COVID. We estimate that our vaccine program has saved more than 30,000 lives. While Australia has been doing it tough, our economy remains resilient. Australia was the first advanced economy to have more people in work than it did prior to COVID. Nearly 900,000 jobs have been created since May last year. After last year’s recession, Australia’s economy—the GDP—recovered to be larger than prior to the pandemic, ahead of any advanced major economy in the world. And now, thanks to our high vaccination rates, we can start to safely reopen our borders to the world and Aussies can get back to doing the things they love. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Henderson, a supplementary question?
Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:18): What is the Liberal and Nationals government doing to further protect Australians against COVID-19?
Senator COLBECK (Tasmania—Minister for Sport and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services) (14:18): To provide even greater protection against COVID-19, Australians aged 18 and over who have received two doses of a vaccine at least six months ago are now eligible to have a booster shot. This follows advice from Australia’s vaccine experts, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, and approval from Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The booster program has commenced its rollout directly to people living in residential aged-care and disability homes through inreach programs. This makes Australia one of the first countries in the world to commence a whole-of-population booster program. With over 151 million Pfizer, Novavax and Moderna vaccine doses already secured for supply into the future, Australia is well prepared to provide booster doses as approvals are provided by the medical experts.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Henderson, a final supplementary question?
Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:19): As our borders reopen and we welcome international visitors back to Australia as part of our economic recovery, which vaccines will be recognised in this country?
Senator COLBECK (Tasmania—Minister for Sport and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services) (14:19): The Therapeutic Goods Administration has recently recognised two additional COVID-19 vaccines for the purpose of establishing a traveller’s vaccination status. This includes Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, India, and BBIBP-CorV, manufactured by Sinopharm, in China. Covaxin is recognised for travellers aged 12 and over, and BBIBP-CorV is recognised for those aged 18 to 60. This means that many citizens of China and India, as well as other countries where vaccines have been widely used, will be considered fully vaccinated on entry to Australia. This is especially important as we welcome international students back to our shores. There are now eight COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved or recognised by the TGA for entry into Australia, and work continues to acknowledge more.