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Biden Focuses on Hopes and Challenges to Beat Pandemic; White House Adviser: Vaccine Hesitancy Remains a Concern; One Year and Beyond: The Future of the Pandemic; Several EU Countries Suspend Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine; Prince William: Royals Very Much Not a Racist Family. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 12, 2021 - 04:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Biden's primetime call to action. Get vaccinated and help others beat COVID-19.

Then several countries suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as European regulators examine a possible link to blood clots.

And later, Prince William says the royals aren't racist. The latest in his family's very public rift.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

U.S. President Joe Biden used his first televised primetime speech to lay out a hopeful vision for lifting America out of the yearlong pandemic. At the heart of his optimism, an enormous package of economic relief that totals almost $2 trillion. The president signed the legislation into law on Thursday and will hold a more formal signing ceremony later today. He also circled May 1st on the calendar, a day he hopes will signal the beginning of the end of the pandemic for most Americans.


BIDEN: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That's much earlier than expected. Let me be clear, that doesn't mean everyone is going to have that shot immediately, but it means you'll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot. To do this we're going to go from a million shots a day that I promised in December before I was sworn in to maintaining beating our current pace of 2 million shots a day.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden's address was the beginning of a campaign to promote the Covid relief package to Americans. His message, he and other officials will be carrying across the country in the coming weeks. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more on the president's ambitious plans.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This was President Biden's first primetime address since he took office, and he used it to say he is going to be directing all states to make sure all-Americans are eligible to actually qualify for the coronavirus vaccine by May 1st at the latest. This is part of this effort that you're seeing from the Biden administration where they want to have some semblance of normalcy back by July 4th.

They talked about potentially having small get togethers with your friends and family. Not larger events but smaller events they said. And this is all part an effort to ramp up vaccinations, get the nation back on a track to normal and really have basically a light at the end of the tunnel.

But what you heard from President Biden in the speech just say, yes, the federal government can do X, Y and Z, but also, you've got to get Americans to actually get the vaccine when it's their turn to so. And to have this continued vigilance of wearing a mask, keeping social distancing in the meanwhile. Because he did offer a pretty big caveat saying that if we do start to lose progress, you could see restrictions start to go back into place.

But Biden leaned into the camera several times. He said that it's not where he wants to go. And he said focused on way that he is going try to get the nation back to that semblance of normalcy. He talked about upping vaccinations, opening up who it is that can actually administer vaccinations even to eye doctors and veterinarians to able do that as well. They talked about establishing a national website where you can go and look for where is that the closest vaccine to you is.

And then for people who do not have internet, they can have a call center where they can try to find that vaccine as well.


You saw him talking about those efforts what's going forward while also acknowledging the loss so many Americans have seen over the last year. Of course, not just the loss of life but also the loss of so many experiences that people have had there.

And one other notable moment came when President Biden condemned this rise in bigotry in violence against Asian-Americans since the coronavirus pandemic. He called it un-American and said it needs to stop now.

Of course, the question now going forward is what this response is going to look like. But President Biden did note they are well on their way to surpass his goal, his stated goal of 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office. Instead he believes they are going to achieve that pretty soon, within 60 days of being in office.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Getting the $1.9 trillion stimulus package through Congress was a major achievement for the Biden presidency and the president continually stressed in his speech that Americans need to work together to face the challenges ahead. Earlier CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with our political analysts about the new tone Mr. Biden is setting.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Commander-in-Chief. I mean, tonight, he really was sort of the commander-in- grief, acknowledging -- I mean, he spent a lot of time early on acknowledging the extent of the losses, not only, you know, taking out a piece of paper that had the number of 527,726, which is the death toll thus far.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And he spoke in great detail about what everybody in this country has missed this past year. How you miss being with your family, how you missed seeing your parents, how you miss seeing your grandchildren.

And he spoke about what everybody has missed, how you missed being with your families, how you missed seeing your parents, how you missed seeing the grandchildren.

COOPER: It is the details of life that matter.

BORGER: It is, and this is Joe Biden, this is what he talks about. This is who he is, it's the details of life.

And I was thinking back to when former President Trump spoke after he had COVID, and he said, don't let COVID dominate your life. And what Joe Biden just did was recount to us how it has dominated all of our lives, and then gave us some hope, some realistic hope, saying I'm going to tell you the truth, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

But here is what we -- not I -- what we have to do together as a country and as a nation to get out of it.

COOPER: There were also -- I mean, you know, as a country, we've grown used to boasts and threats and jibes during a speech like this. There was none of that tonight.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not even against the Republican Party that voted against him.

COOPER: That's what so --

JONES: The beauty of that -- COOPER: He got this legislation passed without any Republican support and it is a huge legislation. He hardly talked about it. I mean, it wasn't until really the end there that he even mentioned it.

JONES: Yes. Look, I just think that he is the guy we need right now. When he talked about, I'm going to heal the soul of America, a lot of people thought that was some corny stuff. But to see the President of the United States standing up there, he didn't say you need me. He said, I need you. I need you.

I mean, my God, that is -- isn't that it? We need each other. And then the inclusivity. It is the little touches. He didn't just say the states, he said and the tribes and the territories. He talked about the rural Americans. He's got money in there for rural Americans.

He talked about corporations coming together. And he stuck up for the Asian-American community that's been living a horror for this entire time. And he -- but there was nothing about it, where he was taking shots at anybody. He didn't blame the other party for not being there. He told the country that we can get this done. And it was just -- the tone was different, tangibly, it is different in terms of who he is helping, but this is exactly what we need right now.


BRUNHUBER: As the president laid out his administration's goal for all adult Americans to have access to a COVID vaccine by May 1st and that's just seven weeks from now. The president said the government will open more mass vaccination sites to speed up the process. One of the key White House officials behind this effort spoke with our Chris Cuomo.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: And definitely into May 1st everyone is going to be able to get the short in their arm. But on May 1st you should be able to get a date, in which you'll have a shot, in your arm, if you haven't had one already.

I think our bigger challenge, Chris, is all the people that aren't yet sure if they want the vaccine. That worries me more.

CUOMO: Good. Thank you, you helped me into my next point.

Seven out of 10 in this country say the worst is behind us. Oh, great. I love the optimism. There's also a casualness to it that they're not in as a big a rush to get the vaccines because things are going to open up anyway. Getting the vaccine is a PI - pain in the hiney. And they don't know that they want to do it.

And the question to you is, are you guys giving them enough incentive to do it? Those CDC guidelines were too conservative.


What about the idea of a vaccine passport? Where you get the vaccine? You'll get this thing. You can do more than people who don't have it. Why not incentivize people that want to do something that increasingly, they're not going to want to do?

SLAVITT: You know, just like the whole rest of the last year, Chris, you are one step ahead. Because I think you're talking about the kinds of things that are very much going to be on people's minds coming forward.

It's interesting, you know, before people get vaccinated most of the talk is about, when can I get my vaccine? A lot of what happens is after people get vaccinated, as people want to go, forget it and move on. The reality is we have a lot of them, people, three-quarters of adults still haven't been vaccinated.

CUOMO: Right.

SLAVITT: And I really hope that the quarter of us that have been vaccinated will still remember that there are a lot of people out there that are not yet as safe as we are.


BRUNHUBER: So with the pandemic's first anniversary behind us, Erica Hill looks at the toll the past year has taken and why the future appears brighter.


CUOMO: We have got breaking news. The NBA has just announced that the season is going to be suspended.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The NBA coming to a screeching halt just hours after this warning.


FAUCI: I said that, but I did not in my mind think that much worse was going to be 525,000 deaths.

HILL (voice-over): And yet here we are, in the course of a year, more than 29 million confirmed cases in the U.S., 530,000 lives lost.

KRISTIN BELL-PEISTRUP, HUSBAND DIED OF COVID-19: Grieving and isolation is a very difficult thing.

HILL (voice-over): CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky calling the toll of the past year heartbreaking.

"We are tired, we are lonely, we are impatient," she writes in a new statement, while also focusing on hope.

Both deaths and average new cases down in the last week. Ten percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. Four former presidents teaming up to boost that number.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now roll up your sleeve and do your part.



HILL (voice-over): Notably absent Donald Trump, who we recently learned was vaccinated off camera in January.

Meantime, encouraging new data from Israel shows the Pfizer vaccine appears to be 94 percent effective against asymptomatic spread.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, MEDICAL ANALYST: It means not just you're protected from getting sick but also protect from potentially catching it and then spreading it to others.

HILL (voice-over): The same studies show it's also highly effective against the variant first identified in the U.K., which is the dominant variant in Israel, and which has been confirmed in all but three U.S. states.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: This is coming at us at the very same time we're opening up America as if there's nothing else is happening.

HILL (voice-over): The Texas attorney general suing Austin officials for keeping the cities mask mandate in place, saying it undercuts reopening efforts.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D-TX), AUSTIN: The science and the data very clear that the single most important thing we can be doing at this point is wearing masks.

HILL (voice-over): And yet from Maryland to Oklahoma, more states are easing restrictions.

GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): The standard for normal cannot be zero cases. In Oklahoma, the standard for normal is freedom.

HILL (voice-over): Prompting celebration and concern.

HILL: Early data from the CDC shows that 2020 appears to be the deadliest year on record for the U.S. in more than a century. And that's largely due to COVID-19. In fact, we saw the death rates rose 15 percent in the last year due to the pandemic.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill. CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Thailand has canceled its planned rollout of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine after several European nations decided to stop using it. European regulators are looking at a possible link to blood clots. But France, Spain, and Nigeria say they're satisfied the vaccine is safe and plan to keep administering it. And the European Medicines Agency issued a statement supporting the vaccine. But for more we're joined now by CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris. Melissa, what are we to make all of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well it was these reports in several European countries, all of these patients, who after being inoculated were found to have blood clots that led several of them to investigate. And several of them either to stop the deliver that particular batch of AstraZeneca or to stop, as in Denmark, the delivery of the vaccine altogether for a 14-day period.

And of course, as you now, Thailand waiting to see what the results of those European investigations are before it gets back to vaccinating anyone -- or begins to vaccinate anyone rather -- with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So for Europeans for whom the AstraZeneca was such an important part of a vaccination rollout program that was already so beset by supply problems and delays, Kim, this is yet another blow since it means that for the next few days or couple of weeks at least these countries are not going to be able to be inoculating anyone with this AstraZeneca vaccine or that particular batch. So another blow.


There were already difficulties with it. And of course, there is the question more broadly about vaccine reliability had the image that vaccines have with the public. Bear in mind, Kim, that here in Europe, people are naturally pretty vaccine skeptical. This the latest development in this saga between AstraZeneca and the EU will not help that and people try to get themselves vaccinated all around the world.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. All right thanks so much, Melissa Bell in Paris.

Duchess Meghan's bombshell interview has caused a divide. And it's raising questions about institutional racism. We'll have more. Stay with us.


Prince William has broken his silence following Harry and Meghan's explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey. He says his family isn't racist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, have you spoken to your brother since the interview?

PRINCE WILLIAM: No I haven't spoken to him yet, but I will do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you just let me know, is the royal family a racist family sir?

PRINCE WILLIAM: No, we're very much not a racist family.


BRUNHUBER: During the interview, Meghan claimed a senior royal had made a racist comment about her son during her pregnancy. CNN's Anna Stewart joins us live from Windsor.


So Anna, Prince William says the family isn't a racist. I guess that's the end of the story. Right?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes, I don't think so, Kim. Extraordinary though that the future king of England has to say the royal family is not racist. We've been talking of course this week about the statement we did get from the palace a few days after the interview. And it made it really clear from the queen herself that this was going to be taken privately. These issues would be discussed as a family.

Well having had Prince Charles dodge a question earlier in the week, Prince William has answered one. So it feels like it's almost may be a breakdown in the royal PR machine. Also it really took us by surprise in terms of a breakdown here in protocol.

Now these royal visits, these official visits, are really masterminded by the palace. They're really well controlled when you're on royal rotor -- and I've been on a few of these visits. You certainly don't lob questions over at the royal family and they would certainly not normally answer them.

Clearly in this situation the journalist felt they absolutely had to ask the question and very interesting that Prince William felt very strongly that he had to answer it. He had to defend himself. As he said, there's a lot of speculation about which member of the royal family may have raised concern about the skin tone of Archie's skin from that interview, and those claims have remained out there. But of course, Prince Harry didn't say who was involved. So I think that's probably why Prince William felt he had to say something. But it has taken us all by surprise. And by answering this question, he's actually going to invite a lot more, I think.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, exactly. All right, so think you so much, appreciate that. Windsor England, CNN's Anna Stewart.

Now the interview has triggered a debate in the U.K. on race and the role of the royals in British life. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke to Diane Abbott, the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. Listen to this


DIANE ABBOTT, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I think you have to look at all of those people that working in Buckingham Palace for the royal family, the aide, the advisors, the courtiers. And there's no question from the type of off the record briefings that they've been giving to the media for months, but they never really accepted a biracial American marrying into the British royal family. And sometimes you felt that the nature of the briefings and the abuse

in the media, they wouldn't be happy until they broke up the marriage. So I understand why Meghan and Harry had to leave.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think this moment of reckoning in terms of systemic racism will actually have a lasting impact in the U.K. indeed, across the Commonwealth?

ABBOTT: I hope so. And I think that the Royal Family in the Commonwealth will survive as long as the Queen is alive because she's hugely respected. But once she passes away, which must happen one day, I think the whole question of the role of the royal family and Prince Charles as head of state will be up for debate. And the way they treated Meghan Markle is -- will not be an argument to the status quo amongst the British people or members of the Commonwealth.


BRUNHUBER: So as you've just been hearing, the fallout from the interview has many black Britain's feeling disenchanted. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz explains.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the moment that gave hope to black Britain.

KAREN GIBSON, CONDUCTOR, THE KINGDOM CHOIR: It felt like everything had changed in what was a two-hour service?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Karen Gibson was one of the stars of the royal wedding. Her choir's moving performance showed Britain's diversity. That day, her heart was full of joy for the couple. But after watching their interview with Oprah, she shares their pain.

GIBSON: I think my reaction was, still, are we here still? In 2021?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Meghan accused some in the British press of racism in their coverage of her. Karen and others believe this is true.

PIERS MORGAN, FORMER CO-PRESENTER, ITV'S "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN": Which is exactly the thing you accuse me of doing. If you have something to say about the interview.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, whose heated exchange with TV host Piers Morgan went viral after he questioned Meghan's truthfulness, says the lack of diversity in the media has created mistrust.

SHOLA MOS-SHOGBAMIMU, AUTHOR, "THIS IS WHY I RESIST": I cannot waste my energy on those who are still on the ABC's, one, two, threes, do re mis, of racism. If the media is going to change your words, change the tone of your words, how are you going to trust them with your most valuable asset, which is your voice?


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Away from the overwhelmingly white institution, the British press, Zeze Millz has carved out her own space.

ZEZE MILLZ, CULTURAL COMMENTATOR: Welcome back to the Zeze Mills show.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Her weekly Instagram show speaks to an audience of nearly 120,000 on cultural and political issues.

MILLZ: Our voices are going to be heard now, and if it's uncomfortable for you, then tough luck.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Meghan's comments on her palace experience resonate on Britain's streets.

MILLZ: They always kind of gaslight you and come up with another reason as to why it might not be racism. Or maybe they just don't like her, or maybe it was nothing to do with that.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But exposing systemic inequality is only step one.

MILLZ: The racism is too deep, you know? It is too deep for one person to come in and almost change all of that. But I think that this interview has -- will spark a lot of change.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Buckingham Palace said in a statement that "The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning."

But for the U.K.'s black community, Markle's account is yet more confirmation that institutional racism still exists. Now the country needs to find a way forward.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: And if you want more news about the British royal family be sure to visit our website. We now have a weekly newsletter where you can sign up at

Brazil is being overwhelmed by the pandemic. When we come back, why some are saying the country is on the brink of collapse. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.