Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced who will take over from controversial doctor Dr Jeannette Young as the state’s new chief health officer.
Gold Coast infectious diseases expert Dr John Gerrard will fill the role from mid-December, taking over from Dr Jeanette Young who left the high-profile job she’d held for 16 years to become the Governor of Queensland.
Dr Gerrard is the replacement for Dr Krispin Hajkowicz, who had earlier been named to take over from Dr Young but then pulled out of the role for ‘personal reasons’ just days before he was due to start in late October.
Dr Gerrard has 30 years’ experience as a researcher and clinician, and was the first doctor in Queensland to treat a Covid patient.
‘What we have seen in Queensland is quite extraordinary,’ Dr Gerrard said during a press conference with Ms Palaszczuk on Monday.
‘We have been able to keep Covid-19 out of Queensland for two years.
‘This is something that has not been achieved anywhere else in the world.’
Dr Gerrard led international responses as a medical specialist in two former viral outbreaks, on board the Diamond Princess in Japan in February 2020 and in the Dutch Antilles in early 2021.
He is considered responsible for designing the specialist Covid ward at Gold Coast University Hospital, where Hollywood star Tom Hanks found himself after testing positive to the disease in March 2020.
Dr Gerrard praised Dr Young as he readied to assume the high-profile role.
‘Dr Young showed the importance of implementing public health measures and being able to explain them in a way people could appreciate and understand,’ Dr Gerrard said.
‘That has never been more important than now as we encourage people to get vaccinated before more cases arrive.’
Gold Coast infectious diseases expert Dr John Gerrard will become Queensland’s chief health officer from mid-December, taking over from the sometimes controversial Dr Jeannette Young
Dr Jeannette Young, who was Queensland’s chief health officer for 16 years, at her investiture as Queensland’s Governor
Dr Young made headlines a number of times during the course of the Covid pandemic, in particular for her comments on the AstraZeneca vaccine at a press conference in June.
‘I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die,’ she said, after a number of people reported thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (blood clotting) after receiving the vaccine.
The comment was cited as one of the reasons Queensland’s vaccination rate lagged behind other state averages, creating hesitancy in some cohorts of the population.
Dr Young later tried to clarify her comments, saying people needed to choose the right vaccine for their circumstances.
‘I firmly believe that younger people – and I said 18-year-olds in that comment – should be getting Pfizer,’ she said.
‘I do not think they should be getting AstraZeneca. And we have plenty of Pfizer and they can come out and get Pfizer, or Moderna.’
She later moderated the comment further to suggest younger couple should consult their GP on whether they should receive AstraZeneca.
Dr Gerrard takes the role after Dr Krispin Hajkowicz (pictured), who had earlier been named to take over from Dr Young, pulled out of the role for ‘personal reasons’ just days before he was due to start in late October
Dr Hajkowicz was due to start the role as Dr Young was sworn in as Governor on November 1, but resigned unexpectedly having alreayd fronted a press conference to accept the role.
‘It was unexpected … and he has asked that we respect his privacy,’ Deputy Premier Steven Miles said at the time.
Senior Queensland Health official Dr Peter Aitken will continue to be acting chief health officer until Dr Gerrard begins in mid-December.
Dr Gerrard can be expected to deal with the fallout from the policy in Queensland’s re-opening roadmap that requires visitors to the state to provide a negative test the 72 hours before entering Queensland at their own expense.
Dr Gerrard can be expected to deal with the fallout from the policy in Queensland’s re-opening roadmap that requires visitors to the state to provide a negative test the 72 hours before entering Queensland. Pictured: A family reunited at Brisbane Airport after Queensland re-opened to domestic air arrivals on November 16
The test will be required once 80 per cent of the state’s population over 16 is double-dose vaccinated, forecast for December 17.
The $125 tests will cost a family of five $725 before they are permitted to enter Queensland by air or road.
On Monday Dr Aitken admitted that a loophole existed given Queensland police had said they won’t check at the border where the PCR test is undertaken.
A Queenslander could, for example, take the test in Queensland, travel to NSW for 72 hours, and return using the original test, despite the possibility of infection in NSW.
‘That’s a loophole we will look at, it’s certainly not the intent, the intent is for people to have the test in the area that they’ve been exposed to… that’s what we want Queenslanders do and that’s what I think Queenslanders will do,’ Dr Aitken said.