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Moderna Begins Late-Stage Trial of COVID Vaccine in Young Kids; Today: W.H.O Holds Meeting on Safety of AstraZeneca Vaccine; Soon: Biden Kicks Off "Help Is Here Tour" to Tout COVID Relief Package; Dallas Convention Center to Be Used to Shelter Migrant Teen Boys. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2021 - 11:00   ET


DON LEMON, AUTHOR, "THIS IS THE FIRE: WHAT I SAY TO MY FRIENDS ABOUT RACISM": She would go to vote, they would try to restrict her, right?


And so, she told me those stories at the kitchen table as I was trying to help her read. She would be so proud. And she would just -- when she was proud of us, she would say our full names. Donald Carlton (ph) Lemon, I'm so proud of you, son. And that's what she would say right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Don Lemon, we're all proud of you.

Here's the book. Thanks for the smiles and the important lessons.

LEMON: Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it.


LEMON: Thanks. Bye-bye.

HARLOW: Thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you for joining us.

New this morning, the first young children in a late stage clinical trial have been vaccinated. This news is coming from Moderna and it's providing some hope that a vaccine could be on the way for kids across America.

At the very same time, more European countries are suspending the use of a different vaccine, AstraZeneca vaccine, over reports of dangerous blood clots in a small number of recipients. The vaccine has not been authorized for use yet here in the United States. But the company expected to apply for that authorization quite soon. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, he's also keeping an eye on Europe today,

offering a new warning as new cases in the United States are plateauing at a dangerously high level, about 50,000 cases a day. And he wants to make sure that we as a country don't end up in the same situation that Europe is facing right now.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Europe is generally a few weeks ahead of us in the dynamics of the outbreak. And they had plateauing and then they pull back a bit on their mitigation methods. Then, all of a sudden, it started to surge again. We want to make sure that that doesn't happen here in the United States.


BOLDUAN: And part of that equation is vaccines.

Let's start with the news coming out this morning about Moderna's trials involving children. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is joining me now. She's been looking at the details that are released.

Elizabeth, what are the details of this pediatric trial?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's take a look at this, Kate. This is very interesting. A second vaccine maker in the U.S. is doing a trial on children, because right now, there are no vaccines for children under the ages of 16.

So, Moderna's vaccine is limited to 18 and older. Let's take a look at what they're doing. They're doing a trial with 7,000 participants. These are children ages 6 months old to 11 years old. They're in Canada and the U.S.

And they're testing to see whether different doses should be used for children 6 months to 2 years versus 2 years to 11 years. They're trying to see if size matters here and if they need to be using different doses here.

So, they'll be doing that trial. We don't know when they're going to have results. We do know that Pfizer fully enrolled their trial with children in January. But still it will likely take months until we hear about their results and until children will be able to take the vaccine -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Thanks, Elizabeth. Really appreciate it.

So, the big question in Europe right now, is it a coincidence or is it a side effect? Serious confusions surrounding AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine. The World Health Organization is meeting today to look at the safety record as more and more countries aren't waiting for the answer. Instead, they're pausing the use of vaccine entirely until they hear more. And the FDA may be considering emergency use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in this country.

Joining me now for this CNN's Melissa Bell. She is in Rome for us today.

Melissa, this is all about reports of the dangerous blood clots that have shown up in some recipients of AstraZeneca. But what exactly is going on here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, Kate, it's important to understand the figures in terms of the people who actually had issues with blood clots after having been inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The company itself has been at pains to point this out as have other regulatory bodies including the European Medicines Agency until now, although it has not started the investigation.

Out of 17 million people who received the AstraZeneca shot in the United Kingdom and E.U., we're talking over 30 who were found to have the issues with the blood clots. But that led a few European countries to say we're going to pause it. We're going to pause the delivery of certain batches while we investigate it.

Then what happened is Denmark came out and said yesterday something interesting. It wasn't so much about the number of people reporting problems, it was about the nature of their symptoms when they died which we found unusual. You saw that sweeping across the European Union and really in the name of public confidence and European coordination, some countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the biggest economies announcing they were going to suspend it.

This is all the subject of an investigation. The European Medicines Agency is expected to deliver it verdict on Thursday for the time being and said, look, we believe that rollout should continue.


The problem is, Kate, of course once these investigations start, once these suspensions begin, it is a question of confidence in the vaccine and that is something, of course that, the entire world is looking at. It is also a question of supplies here in Europe. COVID-19, third wave is sweeping across the continent. This part of Europe, I'm speaking to you from, Rome, now under a strict lockdown once again.

It is extremely urgent that Europeans be able to fix the substantial problems they've had in trying to get their vaccination rollout going. Of course, these latest pause in the AstraZeneca vaccine is a massive blow to that. You're talking about eight million injections, eight million AstraZeneca vaccines currently sitting on shelves in European counties and they cannot be put into people's arms, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Thanks so much, Melissa. Really appreciate it. Thanks for the update.

Joining me right now for more on this is Dr. Paul Offit. He's the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. He's also a member of the FDA's vaccine advisory board.

Really leaning on your area of expertise today, Dr. Offit. This -- what Melissa Bell was reporting out of Rome right now with AstraZeneca, this really is confusing to me. You have countries halting use of the vaccine over fears of a possible connection to blood clotting and small number of recipients. But the company data, the World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency, they're saying right now that they don't suggest that there is a real connection though they're looking more at the data.

Can you just give me your take on this? Do you think they have reason to be concerned? Or do you think they jumped too soon?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: So this shouldn't be that hard. I mean, so, for example, in this country, when we release the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we look at a variety of problems including blood clots to see whether or not the incidents of blood clots is greater in a vaccinated versus unvaccinated group. The United States, there are 900,000 people a year who develop blood clots. You see advertisements on television for preventing or treating deep vein thrombosis, which is another name for that.

So, it's not hard to do that. We've done that. We've seen there is no greater instance of blood clots.

In Europe, in European countries, that should be done. It appears it may have been done in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, you have country after country after country in Europe saying we need to suspend this vaccine until we figure this out.

So I just think they need to halt an emergency meeting now to gather these data and see whether there is an increase in incidence. If there is, that's a problem. If there isn't, what they've done by withholding the vaccine is they put a cloud over this vaccine.

And while it's very he's why I to scare people, it's much harder to unscare them. I fear that's what we're about to find out.

BOLDUAN: That's actually what I was going to ask you. I wonder no matter what comes out of an emergency meeting if you think, if you fear that some damage has been done as we know, vaccine hesitancy isn't just a problem in the United States. It's a problem around the world.

OFFIT: Absolutely. And so it's hard to unring a bell. I think it's going to take a massive effort to try and if we find which I think is likely, but we'll see, whether or not the -- when you get this vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, you're more likely than an unvaccinated person to develop blood clots, and we find out that that's not the case. We are going to have a lot of education to do.

But it is hard to unring the bell. I feel badly about this in the sense this vaccine was sort of touted as the world's vaccine and certainly this country's only as strong as the weakest countries out there in terms of preventing this virus. I mean, you know, we -- international travel is common. We need to illuminate this vaccine from the world, not just the United States. This was one of the key vaccines to doing that.

BOLDUAN: You are surprised by what, I mean it really has become kind of this cascading effect of some countries and then you've got France, Germany, Spain -- I mean and kind of all following suit without additional information. It's just over fears that there could be a problem. I'm a bit surprised.

OFFIT: I think that a central tenet of risk communication is not sort of the compelling desire to communicate all theoretical risks. I mean, one risk is clear. The risk of this disease is clear. I feel like we elevated this theoretical risk above a real risk and in the end might be doing far more harm than good by doing that.

BOLDUAN: If I can change and turn now to the trial -- Moderna announcing that the first children have been vaccinated in the late stage clinical trial. What -- this is ripe in your area of expertise. What are you looking at when you got the Pfizer and Moderna trials under way with kids? What are you looking for closely here?

OFFIT: So what the companies are trying to do is make sure they have the right dose. They're doing dose ranging trials. Phase one dose ranging trials.

Once they feel they have a dose that can be safely administered and is inducing immune response that they believe is likely to be associated with protection, then they'll move to a phase three trial where they look at now thousands of children who get that dose and that dosing interval to make sure that it's safe and thousands of children and that it can -- we can move forward with this vaccine, because we do need a vaccine for children.


I think if we're going to get to 80 percent population immunity, at some level, children need to be vaccinated. Children can die from this disease. I mean, there are more than 170 children who died last year of COVID-19. That's about the same number as die every year from the flu for which we also recommend the vaccine. And, you know, we see this so-called unusual disease in children, this multisystem inflammatory disease which can be pretty upsetting and devastating. And so, there is many reasons to vaccinate children.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a sense of what this means in terms of possible time line for approval for use in kids?

OFFIT: Right. So, it's hard to take -- to guess on these things. If I had to make a rough guess, I would think it is possible that we would have enough vaccines, enough data for children now to 12 years of age by the summer and then for much younger children by later in the year. But we'll see.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. As we have all become amateur experts. We know that, first, you have to get through the trial and then can you start making those timelines.

Thank you, Dr. Offit. Always appreciate your time.

OFFIT: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Biden, he's hitting the road as cities are getting ready to receive millions and millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds. I'm going to talk to one mayor next about how exactly her city plans to spend the money once it arrives.

Plus, overcrowded facilities and unsanitary conditions. We're going to take you to the U.S.-Mexico border where thousands of migrants, including children, are now in custody and in the midst of what is becoming a big political battle.



BOLDUAN: Soon, President Biden is going to be leaving the White House starts his tour around the country to promote the COVID relief package. He is going to be heading to Pennsylvania in just a few hours and he's going to be visiting a small business outside of Philadelphia, where he'll ramp up the sales pitch of his plan highlighting the financial assistance that rescue plan will be providing to small businesses.

Joining me right now for much more on this whole strategy and this whole rollout, CNN's John Harwood.

John, what do you think of this plan from the White House? This rollout to promote the package?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it's a really important and often neglected phase of big government initiatives. It's hard to pass big government programs. But it's very important after you pass them to then both promote them, to maintain popularity but also explain them. So people understand what the benefits are.

You pass a benefit program and people who are eligible don't take up the program, don't apply for the benefits, you don't achieve what you want.

So, there are a variety of subsidies and forms of assistance for small businesses, particularly very small businesses in underserved areas that have not taken for various reasons either logistical or otherwise taken advantage of previous rounds of assistance. So he's going to Chester, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, to promote some of those plans for small business. He's going to do it all week.

So is the first lady, so is Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman, Doug Emhoff. And they've got to try to make sure that you get the money out the door -- you know, some of it is easy for the treasury to send money to bank accounts of people for whom already have information for past tax refunds. That's not all that hard. But you got to get the money out the door in terms of checks and debit cards for people that you don't have the bank information for.

Same with child tax credit. Same with the earned income tax credit, same with the vaccination aid. You have to make sure that money gets out. It's getting used for the proper purposes. That's why the president appointed Gene Sperling, an experienced Democratic economic official to oversee that program.

But today is about small business and making sure having lost 400,000 small businesses over the past year, they want to lose as few as possible and trying to get that assistance rapidly out to try to achieve the economic rebound that Joe Biden wants.

BOLDUAN: Well, and rapidly, you just said that is also key with this rollout, is getting that money out there and spent and used with urgency and rapidly and quickly. Timing here is of the essences is well when you talk about this being a rescue stimulus bill. That is part of it, that is big on Gene Sperling's job right now because that's part of the key.

Thanks, John. Appreciate you, man.

So, at the very same time as John is laying out, the president is selling this COVID relief package, cities and states across the country are getting ready to receive a tremendous amount of cash. $350 billion from the COVID relief bill package is slated to go to state and local governments to help shore up their budgets from the hit that they have taken during the pandemic. So once the money is in hand, what do they do with it?

Joining me right now for more on this is the mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson.

Mayor, thanks for coming in.

I saw that you said yesterday that your city will be getting about $500 million, the first half coming in May, the second half a year from now. Where are the plans right now for where the money is going? And when does it need to be spent?

MAYOR LYDA KREWSON (D), ST. LOUIS: Kate, thank you. Thank you so much for having me on this morning.

Yes, we're very excited about having $500 million. Half of it will be received, as you said, in May of this year and half of it in May of last year. Do you to spend the money over about 3 1/2 years. So by December 31st, 2024.

So, that's a long period of time, I think, to meet the crisis that cities are facing and our city here in St. Louis is facing. So we're excited about that opportunity.


We have a huge revenue shortfall as a result of COVID. Of course, we also have a housing crisis, a looming eviction crisis and many other needs. We have a lot of people who are hurting, who are out of jobs or have had they're hours reduced and are really on the edge.

So we're quite encouraged by this stimulus money. BOLDUAN: Mayor, you mention housing crisis, a looming eviction crisis

and also obviously unemployment that many cities are dealing with. Can you be more specific of where the money is going to go?

KREWSON: Well, we expect that a large amount of this money will go to providing rental assistance, additional funds will go to providing homeless assistance. Many people are couch-surfing or are literally don't have their own bed to sleep in at night. So a lot of this money will go in that direction.

We also expect -- St. Louis has a very high poverty rate. And in addition to that, we have a very old building stock. And so, we're also hoping to be able to use some of these funds to bring some buildings back up to provide for good workforce housing for people.

So, a lot of needs. Housing certainly, public safety, replacing our general revenue that has been lost and will continue to be lost for a while are just some of the key things.

BOLDUAN: You've said -- I've seen you said the city's revenue has dropped by the figure that I saw was by $90 million because of the pandemic. You're getting $500 million over the next two years from this. So you're getting more than five times the revenue drop that you have -- that the hit in revenue that you have taken from the pandemic. This is more than making up to what was lost from the pandemic.

KREWSON: Well, it is. However, we had about a $20 million loss in last fiscal year which that would have been really March, April, May, June. And then close to a $70 million loss in the current fiscal year that we're in. And this is not over.

I mean, we're very encouraged. Today actually is the day that we had our first COVID case in St. Louis last year on March 16th. So, things certainly look a lot better today than they did on March 16th of last year, but our businesses have not recovered. We have many, many businesses that are out of business. We have many people that are out of work as a result of COVID.

And that we can't just turn the switch and make that happen. So that additional revenue loss will continue on for the next couple of years. And this will assist with that along with, of course, trying to help our people and trying to help our businesses to shore them up during this time period.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, you've got a lot of money coming your way. You got to get out the door fast. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate your time.

KREWSON: Thank you, Kate. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a record surge of migrants and the new plan to turn a convention center into temporary housing for thousands of teenagers.


[11:28:05] BOLDUAN: Right now, the Biden administration is desperately looking for new and better housing options for the alarming number of migrant children crossing the southern border without their parents. A new plan to in the works to turn a Dallas convention center into near a temporary shelter.

And according to a memo obtained by CNN, more than 2,000 boys ages 15 to 17 who enter the U.S. alone will be the first to be housed there. Two top Biden administration officials on TV this morning are trying to make the case that they are doing everything that they can and that despite this very big problem, the border is secure.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: What we're doing is addressing young children who come to the border to make claims under the humanitarian laws that our country established years and years ago. And we are building the capacity to address the needs of those children when they arrive.

ROBERTA JACOBSON, WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR THE SOUTHERN BORDER: We're moving really quickly a request for information for additional facilities went out immediately, but it's important that we make sure that children are moved out of Border Patrol stations.


BOLDUAN: So what are these migrants facing at the southern border?

CNN's Rosa Flores is there.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, here's how the process is supposed to work. Border Patrol encountered unaccompanied children, they have a maximum of 72 hours to transfer them to HHS care. But that is not happening quickly enough right now along the U.S. border.

Instead, according to attorneys that represent these children, what is happening is that some of the minors are spending five to seven days in the facility you see behind me without being able to go outside, without being able to call parents or family members and in crowded and unsanitary conditions.

(voice-over): As tens of thousands of migrants make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southern border -- someone stole all her money along the way -- many discover that getting here is just the beginning.