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Chief medical officer Paul Kelly responds to AstraZeneca vaccine concerns


Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly has defended the decision to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of concerns about its effectiveness.

Infectious diseases experts have joined medics in calling for authorities to halt the rollout in favour of coronavirus vaccines with higher efficacy rates to ensure herd immunity.

This follows results from several trials that showed that the Oxford University-AstraZeneca jab had an efficacy rate of between 62-90 per cent depending on the doses.

Professor Kelly said AstraZeneca vaccine was well above the World Health Organisation’s 50 per cent efficacy threshold.

“All of the three vaccines that have so far published their data in peer-viewed journals – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – show a very significant effect against severe illness,” he said on Wednesday.

“They’re all good at protecting against severe illness and death. That’s why I say that lives will be saved by the AstraZeneca vaccine, I have no doubt about it.”

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He conceded he was troubled by what he called “selective” reporting over AstraZeneca’s efficacy, warning it could undermine confidence in the jab.

“Confidence is absolutely the most important thing, and that’s what worries me about the coverage we had today in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.

“People will be nervous, of course. We need to give more information and we’re doing that. So I am worried about the selective use of the data that we have.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine by the end of January, with a rollout pencilled for mid to late February for five million Australians in priority groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to have completed the approval process in February.

Professor Kelly said the jab would prevent death and severe illness 100 per cent of the time, like the Pfizer vaccine.

He said both vaccines would only be rolled out if they had the full tick for safety, efficacy and production quality.

“The EU has also pre-purchased 400 million doses of AstraZeneca, the US has pre-purchased 300 million doses of AstraZeneca, and the UK 100 million doses of AstraZeneca. So we‘re not an outlier there,” he said.

The UK has already begun immunising people with the jab under emergency approvals.

Most Australians are expected to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because it can be made in Melbourne, unlike the Pfizer vaccine that has to be imported from overseas due to its mRNA technology.

Infectious diseases physician Professor Peter Collignon told Sunrise that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not be as good as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

But he said those would be in short supply because they were not readily available and had to be stored in minus temperatures.

“I would be all for rolling out this (AstraZeneca) vaccine because it is much better than anything that is going to be available for quite a while,” Professor Collignon said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday refuted claims the government was conceding its vaccine strategy would not provide herd immunity.

“This is what the medical expert panel of Australia, the one that has helped keep us safe, has recommended,” Mr Hunt said.

In the wake of efficacy concerns, Labor leader Anthony Albanese told 2GB that the government should have invested in six vaccine candidates instead of three.

The opposition has long called for the rollout of the vaccine to be brought forward following the approval process.

But Mr Albanese said the party had never argued that authorities should circumvent the TGA process.

“We need to listen to the experts,” he said.

“Once it (the TGA) approves it, the vaccine should be rolled out.”



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Malcolm Turnbull slams Scott Morrison over ‘dangerous’ Craig Kelly comments


Malcolm Turnbull has slammed Scott Morrison for failing to take a tougher line with MPs promoting “dangerous” crackpot COVID-19 cures including hair lice treatments and the use of the antiseptic Betadine.

The former prime minister has warned it’s time to “call out” Liberal MPs, including NSW MP Craig Kelly, who are developing huge social media followings by promoting wild claims about the virus.

Mr Kelly’s Facebook account now has an army of followers who are reading up to three posts a day promoting controversial theories and claims that asking children to wear face masks was “child abuse”.

“Well, look, the very least the Prime Minister and the Health Minister, Acting Prime Minister, should call it out for what it is,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

“I mean, you know, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsibility.

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“Morrison and McCormack and Hunt and others should be saying – at the very least – is that Craig Kelly is wrong and that it is reckless and irresponsible to be misleading the Australian public on matters of public health.”

Mr Turnbull said it was “hard to think of anything more important” than public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.

“And if you have got a member of parliament pedalling misleading and dangerous information, then that, at the very least, needs to be called out and condemned and contradicted by the Government,’’ he said.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly has promoted a range of theories on COVID-19 on his page but has attacked claims he’s promoting misinformation about the hair lice treatment Ivermectin after posting another study overnight.

“For all those ignorant ill-informed Ivermectin deniers out there, piling on the abuse and claiming Ivermectin is all ‘conspiracy theory’ stuff and ‘misinformation’ (Chris Bowen, Jenna Price @SMH, The Guardian, etc) – read it and weep, wash the blood off your hands and apologise for your ignorance and prejudice,’’ Mr Kelly said.

“And then join my call for the National COVID Evidence Task Force to IMMEDIATELY reverse their recommendation against using Ivermectin to fight COVID.

“And I wonder if the ABC or any MSM media report this story tonight?”

Mr Kelly has also posted links to studies suggesting that the antiseptic Betadine could reduce hospitalisations by 84 per cent.

“I have not ‘DECLARED’’ anything about Betadine,’’ Mr Kelly said.

“What I did, was post the details of a study published in the journal Bioresearch Communications, Volume 7, Issue 1, January 2021 – by the lead author Assistant Professor Iqbal Mahmud Chowdhury MD – in which they ran a randomised controlled clinical trial, the results of which were those taking the Betadine treatment in the study had a 84 per cent reduction in COVID infections compare to those in the placebo group.”

Mr Turnbull also rubbished the Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s suggestion that Twitter should not ban US President Donald Trump.

“Let’s be quite frank about this – Donald Trump incited a mob, many of them armed, to attack the Congress of the United States.

“To attack and besiege it. I mean, this is one of the most humiliating, devastating moments, blackest days, in American history and Trump incited it,’’ he said.

“So I think – I think that, you know, Twitter and Facebook have been acting responsibly.”



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How Brett Kelly launched $47 million ASX listed company


Brett Kelly landed his “dream job” straight after school – but by 22, he had lost it all.

The Sydney teen had scored a plum full-time cadetship at an investment bank, and he was also completing a university degree on the side.

But everything changed when his boss asked to “have a moment” one day in June 1997.

The chat resulted in his employment being terminated – but Mr Kelly said his “shock exit” didn’t end up being the crushing blow many would assume.

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“I doubt many people can say losing their dream job at the age of 22 was the best thing that ever happened to them,” Mr Kelly said.

“For me, probation as an investment banker – and my subsequent firing – was a huge learning curve.

“I was a young guy, unsure what my options were. But I’d quickly worked out from this experience, and from the people I worked with, that I wanted to build a company.”

After he was let go, Mr Kelly’s father handed him two books to help him plan his next step.

They were Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends And Influence People – which focused on building good relationships and achieving goals.

They gave him a “crazy idea” – to write his own book based on interviews with some of Australia’s most successful and well known people, from former prime ministers to business leaders, musicians and artists.

“I thought I’d find people who had been successful, ask them what they did and model myself on that,” he said.

“I wasn’t the son of Kerry Packer or anything – I had never met people I’d call ‘extreme achievers’ before and I didn’t grow up next to billionaires or genius scientists … but I had the crazy idea to contact the most interesting people in Australia and ask them to spend an hour with me.

“I made 5500 calls over three months and gently harassed people and 34 of them ended up speaking with me face-to-face.”

One interviewee said yes but then stood him up two times before he secured the interview.

“The third time, he said he deliberately turned me away the first two times because he thought if I didn’t keep coming back, I’d never publish a book,” he said.

“It was a great lesson for a young guy. I’m genuinely relentless, and I’ll keep turning up.”

His book, Collective Wisdom: Prominent Australians On Success And The Future, ended up being a bestseller, but Mr Kelly always knew he wanted to start his own business.

So he went back to university and became a qualified tax agent before finding a job at an accounting firm.

But by 2006, he decided to take the lessons he’d learnt from Australia’s highest achievers and start his own company – Kelly & Partners Chartered Accountants – from scratch.

Today, the ASX-listed firm turns over more than $47 million a year.

Over the years, Mr Kelly has also published several other books based on interviews with high-flyers, and his latest effort, Investment Wisdom, has just been released.

The father-of-three told news.com.au over the decades he had discovered many high achievers had some key traits in common, including the drive to be generous with their knowledge and “persistence, determination and relentlessness”.

He said successful people had also often found something “much bigger than themselves” that they truly believed in, they worked “much harder than what people think is normal” and had incredibly high standards.

They were all traits he put to use while building his own empire.

“There’s very little that can’t be overcome with an amazing amount of work – when I started the firm I’d be heading to work at 3.30am, I’d work til 6.30pm, have dinner at 7pm and do more work from 8-11pm,” he said.

“Being prepared to work 16-hour days is a very common trait among people who achieve their goals.
“Some people say you have to have a life, but I would say, why do you think your work is not your life? If you’re doing work you really love and care about you’re never really at work.”



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Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly answers your COVID-19 questions


Months into the coronavirus pandemic, we are still being inundated with fresh news about the virus and the battle to stop its spread.

Whether it’s promising vaccine trials, disputes over whether to reopen state borders, use of the coronavirus tracing app or the daily updates on infections and deaths, the headlines often remain overwhelming.

The big challenge remains moving out of lockdown without cases spiralling out of control, and for many Australians the joy of eased restrictions is matched by concern over what happens next.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly will be online at 10.30am (AEST) today to answer your questions in a one-hour Q&A.

You can ask your questions in advance in the comments below or during the session.

Due to the number of questions, Prof Kelly may not be able to answer everyone.



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Coronavirus restrictions could be derailed if a widespread outbreak happens, Paul Kelly says


It is very unlikely Australia sports fans will be able to pack out stadiums on grand final weekend, even if Australia’s plan to lift restrictions is successful, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly says.

Yesterday the National Cabinet agreed to a three-step easing of restrictions to take place across the next several months, with the goal of having all states and territories reach the most relaxed “stage three” by July.

But Professor Kelly said stage three, which limits gatherings to 100 people in most circumstances, would be the “new normal”.

“The third step is not quite back to normal as it was before COVID-19, and I think we’ve been quite open about this from the beginning that the new normal, the COVID-safe normal may not be the normal that we were used to prior to January,” he said.

Professor Kelly said that meant large gatherings of people remained unlikely for the foreseeable future.

“There are some iconic moments in Australian sport coming up in that period, the last weekend in September is dear to many of us,” he said.

“I must admit I’m doubtful that we’ll be able to fill the MCG by this time, but let’s see how we go.”

a girl raises a richmond scarf as tigers fans celebrate behind her
Professor Kelly said it was unlikely large crowds would be able to congregate by the AFL grand final at the end of September.(AAP: David Crosling)

Widespread cases could derail restrictions plan

And while the best-case scenario would still leave large gatherings like the AFL grand final unlikely for much of the year, Professor Kelly said there were no guarantees restrictions would lift quickly.

Each change to restrictions is accompanied by a cooling-off period allowing health authorities to monitor changes in infection rates.

The three-step relaxation of rules has been described by the Federal Government as a “roadmap”, but Professor Kelly said it was not set in stone.

“I want to really be clear there are no roadblocks in this roadmap,” he said.

“The only one that we will have, potentially, and this is why we are being cautious about our restart of these various activities, is the virus itself.”

Professor Kelly said a substantial increase in case numbers would be one component that could derail states from moving on to step two.

“More than the actual absolute number, it’s really about where those cases are.

“If we were to see lots of cases around a dispersed geographical area then that would be more concerning really than a specific outbreak like we’re seeing in western Melbourne at the moment.”

Yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed confidence large outbreaks would not occur as restrictions lifted, but said if they did, states and territories would act on the advice of health officials.

App still not fully operational

While 5.4 million Australians have signed up for the Government’s COVIDSafe tracing app, Professor Kelly said state and territory contact tracers were still not able to use data collected on the app.

All states and territories need to agree to the app and train staff, and Professor Kelly said seven of the eight jurisdictions had done so.

He was not able to say which state or territory had not yet signed up, but said tracing would be fully operational early next week.

“I think it’s just a timing thing,” he said.

“It’s just a timing matter and by Monday everyone will have signed.”

He said while restrictions were beginning to ease across the country, older people should still use particular caution when interacting with others, even on Mother’s Day.

“For elderly mums, just be a little bit cautious, and probably keep that 1.5 metres’ distance for now,” he said.

“I know it’s hard and we all want to cuddle our mums on Mother’s Day … but let’s just wait a little bit longer.”

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