The President of the Greek Community of Melbourne was invited to a roundtable meeting with Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and other community leaders around Australia. Also, in the meeting were Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd and Dr Monique Stone, Head of the TGA, which is tasked with assessing the quality of the vaccines.
Mr Papastergiadis was one of two people who asked a question of Minister Hunt.
“I asked Minister Hunt COVID-19 has had a profound impact on communities and the economy by dislocating Australia from the rest of the world. It has stopped many families from reconnecting and has stranded many students abroad. What is the timeframe for opening Australia’s borders with the rest of the world in line with the proposed vaccination rollout,” said Mr Papastergiadis.
Minister Hunt responded as follows:
“As the vaccination program is rolled out, community groups should step up their representations with State Governments about the ability to leave and return to Australia. I and the Federal Government do not support the long-term closing of our borders. The effect on family reunions and our economy has been hard. In terms of a timeline, Australia will continue to open up green lanes with countries that have low levels of cases. Next, as cases subside overseas, then Australia will continue to progressively open up channels with other countries. All of this will be staged, and much will depend on transmission rates overseas, albeit the results from the U.K that are coming out now seem somewhat positive. Progressive steps will be made on opening up Australia which will take place during 2021.”
Minister Hunt also announced the following in his general release:
- Australia has secured an extra 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine.
- Every person in Australia whether they are here on a visa or are citizens will have free access to the vaccine.
- The government will fund community groups to help disseminate information on the vaccine rollout.
Professor Michael Kidd said that by late February the first doses will be given for Pfizer. In March, the Astraveneca vaccines will arrive from overseas (assuming they are TGA approved). CSL will produce the Astraveneca vaccines from late March here in Australia.
Dr Monique Stone made the point that all the correct steps for approval have been taken by the TGA.