Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Oliver Peterson, 6PR Breakfast
Speakers: Oliver Peterson, host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia
Date: 7 July 2021
Topics: Vaccine rollout, COVID management, Sydney lockdown
Oliver Peterson, host 6PR Breakfast: Joining me live on the program this morning, the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia. Jennifer Westacott, are you looking forward to this roundtable meeting? Good morning.
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good morning. Yes looking forward to it greatly. It's really important that we work together to help government to get this vaccine rolled out as fast as possible. That we bring the resources and expertise of the corporate sector and really supercharge the vaccine when the supply arrives in the next couple of months. And today we start doing the preparatory work so we can really get cracking when the supply gets here.
Oliver: How would business be able to do this Jennifer?
Jennifer: There's a few things we can do. So most big employers do the flu vaccine for their teams. So the plan would be to get those vaccine providers accredited and trained to do the COVID vaccine. The second would be, where appropriate, setting up mass vaccine centres. Particularly in convenient locations where people would normally go so they can get it. The third thing would be obviously doing admin hit squads if you will. So people who could go in and help the health providers doing the registration of people, doing all that work that they do on the laptop when you get your vaccine. And of course continuing to play a role in helping communicate the benefits and advantages of having the vaccine to the many people who work for a business. We're hoping we can talk all that through today, start doing all the prep work, start training people, start getting everything in place so that we can really supercharge the vaccine rollout when we get those supplies of Pfizer in particular.
Oliver: That is the big challenge though isn't it, the supply issue? We've even got GP clinics at the moment in WA that simply don't have the supplies that they're having to push back appointments. What sort of guarantees are you going to be given or have you been given today that you will be able to put up your hand and do this, because we know we're going to get the supply?
Jennifer: Well I think government has clearly got a quite ambitious plan to get Pfizer here and obviously Moderna as well. So one of the things we'll be looking for today is a bit more clarity on those numbers and the timeframe. And then we're ready to step up in advance, get all that pre-work done, get all the training done so that when it arrives we absolutely supercharge this. And the point Oliver is to make sure that we take the pressure off the health system. So if corporate Australia and businesses more generally or even institutions like universities where they employ a lot of people, can take 20,000 people a week out of the system, that's 20,000 people who are not queuing up at their GP. not queuing up at their pharmacy.
Oliver: It's also about getting the speed isn't it? Because there are some predictions as well from Lieutenant General John Frewen that by the end of October all adults will have been offered a covid-19 vaccination if everything goes to plan. By the end of the year everybody over the age of I think it’s 16 now will be offered a covid-19 vaccination. So it is the 7th of July. Things are about to ramp up. So the infrastructure has got to be in place Jennifer?
Jennifer: Exactly. And we can't expect the health system to be able to do all of that. And that's where corporate Australia particularly that has these standing programs of giving teams the flu vaccine could switch that into giving the covid vaccine. Obviously with the right training and the right protocols. And that's why we could use this time now to do all that prep work, get it ready to go so we can hit the ground running.
Oliver: The lockdown in Sydney expected to be extended for another week. What's this costing the economy?
Jennifer: This is a big cost to the economy. Look I don't think the NSW government does these things lightly. They've been very careful. This is a last resort for them, so we are where we are. I'm in Sydney at the moment. But I think the premier has made it very clear that the extension is about making sure that we don't have to do this again. And I think what really hurts business is the uncertainty and the one thing that's gone really well in NSW is that you know that the premier is not just going to jump to this. She's going to think it through carefully and she's going to make sure that if this extension is announced as everyone is expecting her to do today will be the last time we do this. And obviously, it's an absolute imperative then that we get this vaccine rolling out as fast as possible. And one thing I’d say Oliver that is really important that we'll be emphasising today as well is that we've got to get consistent advice across the country about the vaccine. We can't have one chief health officer in one state saying one thing and then another one saying another. We need consistent advice and that will build the community's confidence to go and get the vaccine. Because even with the supply issues we've got to make sure that people are going to get it. We can't have this confusion.
Oliver: No you can't get to an agreement at national cabinet with all the premiers and the Prime Minister, they come back to their states, have a chat to their chief health officer and then all of a sudden Queensland says one thing, NSW says another, WA goes a different path. We've got to be on the same page and provide that confidence in the vaccination process so hopefully this is the last lockdown in Australia, and we get onto some sort of path of what life was back in January of 2020.
Jennifer: Totally agree and we've got to have some level of risk. If you have no risk at all, I mean you wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. You certainly wouldn't get in a car. We've got to make sure that we get the country moving again, managing the risk, making sure people don't get sick, making sure people aren't hospitalised, looking after vulnerable people but giving that consistent advice about the efficiency of the vaccine, the importance of the vaccine. Building the community's confidence so we can all get our lives back.
Oliver: Jennifer Westacott, enjoy the meeting this morning thank you very much.
Jennifer: Thanks so much.