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Soon: Biden To Set New Goal Of 200M Vaccinations In First 100 Days; GA House Set To Pass Sweeping Bill To Restrict Voting Access; Soon: Biden Holds First News Conference Of Presidency. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 12:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: This just in to CNN, Pfizer and BioNTech says that it is -- it has begun its vaccine trial on young children ages six months to 11 years old, phase one of the trial they are announcing will focus on finding the right dosage for these ages. Phase two and phase three will then focus on safety and tolerability. This news comes as President Biden is expected to announce a brand new goal of 200 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office.

To be clear, the new goal is already something that the U.S. was on pace to meet. That's just what the math tells you. He hit his original goal, the country hit that original goal of 100 million shots in arms in the -- in just the last week. We're also learning that Biden will dedicate $10 billion to expanding vaccine eligibility and building confidence in the vaccines. We should learn more and hear more about this in just less than an hour when President Biden holds his first news conference since taking office.

Joining me right now for more on this a CNN medical analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder, she's an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. Dr. Gounder, how significant is this announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech and they have the first dose is now administered in this trial of young children?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Kate, we know in order to achieve real herd immunity in the population, we are going to have to vaccinate children and while children have not been those who've had the most severe cases of COVID there have been these occasional very -- severe cases which have frightened a lot of parents, and they do, you know, are important in terms of the propagation of the virus. So, you know, I think this is very good news that they're starting the phase one trial, but it will be probably well into 2022 before we see the youngest of children being vaccinated.


BOLDUAN: Yes. On the question that everyone seems to be asking of kind of, where are we in this pandemic? I want to play for you how Dr. Fauci is now describing it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I'm often asked, are we turning the corner? My response is really more like we are at the corner whether or not we're going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean for all of us right now, Dr. Gounder?

GOUNDER: You know, I sort of think about this to give you another analogy, like pulling your car into the garage and the pedal, the brake pedal is sort of like the mass and the social distancing that we've been doing for months, and putting your car into -- putting on the parking brake is sort of like what you accomplished by getting enough people vaccinated.

And what we're doing right now is we're pulling into the garage, we're taking our foot off the brake, we're not yet in park, and we're hitting the accelerator with some of what we've seen, with people really relaxing on the mitigation measures, the masking, the social distancing with a lot of the travel that happened over spring break. So, you know, we are at this corner like Dr. Fauci says the real concern is, are we turning a corner into another surge or not?

BOLDUAN: Yes. And on the states kind of loosening up restrictions, this is something that you have been really speaking up about, tell me why.

GOUNDER: Well, in New York, for example, you know, and this is not a red state blue state thin, this is all states. We are seeing many governors lifting social distancing restrictions, opening up businesses. Here in New York, we are reopening indoor dining gyms, for example, large gatherings, like weddings. And this is really dangerous at a time when some 20 to 30 percent of COVID cases are related to or are caused by these more infectious variants like the U.K. variant, that variant has also been shown to be more deadly.

And we really do need to be farther along in getting everybody vaccinated before we can relax on some of these things. It's not forever, but we do need to give ourselves a little bit more time here.

BOLDUAN: I -- last hour, my colleague, Natasha Chen was reporting. She was at a vaccine site where she is in Georgia where they've expanded vaccine eligibility. And she said that they -- they've actually -- there have actually been some people who have come in to get a vaccine, but because they weren't going to receive their preferred brand of vaccine, they actually walked out and left. I what -- that seems a huge messaging problem.

GOUNDER: Yes. And I 100 percent agree with you on that. Me and other members of the Biden-Harris transition COVID Advisory Board published maybe about a month ago now, an op ed in "USA Today" on exactly this question. And what we know from all of the clinical trials is that all three of the vaccines that have been authorized by the FDA for use in this country, so the Pfizer, the Moderna, and the J&J vaccine, all three are 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID. And that's why we vaccinate to prevent hospitalization and death. We don't vaccinate to prevent the sniffles. And that's really at that level, that you do see some minor differences among these vaccines. But my message to you is the risk of getting sick with COVID far outweighs any benefit you might get from living a little bit longer.

BOLDUAN: It seems that message needs to be pressed more and more and louder and louder if we're seeing people walking out of clinic to avoid because they didn't get the right shot, well, the shot that they wanted, if you will. Thanks for coming in Dr. Gounder.

Taking a turn really quickly in Europe, E.U. leaders are meeting today to talk about tightening vaccine exports and how to confront in an apparent third wave of coronavirus that is setting in in many countries, some leaders are blaming the rocky distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine actually as a contributing factor. Joining me right now is CNN's Fred Pleitgen, he's in Berlin where the lockdown there has been extended now until April 18th. Fred, what do they think -- what European leaders who are meeting today think they're going to do to improve this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the only thing that they have at their disposal right now is really locked down because the vaccine is really in short supply here in Europe. You're absolutely right, Kate, one of the things that they are saying when the companies that they're criticizing is AstraZeneca.

They say so far, at least with Europe, AstraZeneca has not fulfilled the contract that it's had with the European Union's already cut down the amount of doses that it says it's going to be able to deliver to far less than what was originally in the contract and that's led the European Union to say look, they might impose some export restrictions on AstraZeneca vaccines made in the European Union to other countries. It's of course something that's led to a lot of issues with the United Kingdom that has actually gotten some of those AstraZeneca doses.


The Europeans however, Kate, are also saying, look, they made some mistakes as well. I want to read you one quote from the French President Emmanuel Macron. He said, quote, we didn't shoot for the stars as much as others. I think that should be a lesson for all of us. We were wrong to lack ambition to lack the madness to say it's possible. Let's do it. Of course, the main country that he singled out was the United States. He said the U.S. was much better and much more ambitious. Of course, President Biden also set to speak at that E.U. Summit tonight as well. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Fred, thank you very much.

Still ahead for us, critics call a bill on the Georgia State House floor today, Jim Crow 2.0. We're going to have much more on the controversial legislation that's up for a vote that could if passed, drastically change voting access in that state.


BOLDUAN: Today Republicans in the Georgia House are expected to push through a sweeping bill to restrict voting access. This would move, if when this happens, this would move this effort one step closer to becoming law. But the pushback is very real. One voter access advocacy group Fair Fight Action started by Stacey Abrams calls the bill in their view Jim Crow 2.0 and says those who think that's hyperbole need to read it, meaning read the bill. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me now from Atlanta. Dianne, what is going to happen here? What's in this bill?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we're looking probably in the next minute or so the Georgia State House which is Republican control is going to vote on this bill, Senate Bill 202. I want to talk about what's in it right now as they begin ready to vote. Absentee voting would require forms of I.D. They're going to limit drop boxes to inside early voting locations that makes giving food and drinks to voters waiting in line a misdemeanor. It allows unlimited challenges to voter registration eligibility.

It also strips some of the authority from the elected Secretary of State removing them as the chairman of the State Election Board and grants state officials these broad powers over local election operations including the ability to replace local election officials. And it also shortens the runoff period from nine weeks to just four weeks.

Now, we talked a lot about weekend voting. This does not eliminate weekend voting, it actually adds a second mandatory Saturday and makes Sunday voting optional. It does set hours though. So some counties may see fewer hours of weekend early voting. Kate, the question is what happens next. We do expect it to pass here in Georgia today at the State House. But it was originally a two-page bill when it came over from the Senate. It's now a 90-plus page bill.

So it's going to go back to the Senate. They're likely going to go into conference with the House decide what to keep, what to take out and then try and get it agreed upon, sent to the governor's desk before March 31st, which is the last day they can work on it before, if they want to get it to the governor's desk this session.

BOLDUAN: They're moving right -- they're moving that in that direction that is for sure. Dianne, thank you very much. Dianne is watching this very closely for us with all the headlines.

Still had for us, President Biden is about to face reporters for his first formal press conference since taking office. Our special coverage is going to begin very shortly. This is a big moment for President Biden. Up next, his biggest challenge as he faces reporters minutes from now.


[12:52:36] BOLDUAN: President Biden is about to face reporters for the most extensive questioning that he's faced since taking office. The first formal press conference for any new president is always a big deal. This President though is facing so many crises at once so early on in his time in office. The stakes for President Biden seem particularly high.

While he's expected to tout his administration success at ramping up COVID vaccinations, he is going to face questions on the other major challenges that his administration is up against. Joining me right now is CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's at the White House. Kaitlan, you're going to be in the seat for CNN. Thanks for coming up to the lawn first and foremost, to talk with me. There are so many questions that he's going to face and he will face. What's top of mind for you?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are just so many things on his list right now. I'm told that he's been preparing pretty extensively for this press conference, as well. So he understands what the spotlight is going to be just as well as anyone else. And of course, since they announced this about nine days ago, I believe is when they first said he was going to do a press conferences when we really understood just how much there is going to be for him to talk about here, Kate, because it's just -- not just the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of that which we do know he's expected to announce a new vaccination goal with this but also what is happening on the southern border with immigration and of course, these two mass shootings in less than a week.

The other thing hang over that that is also tied to those shootings is how he plans to get his agenda passed and what that's going to look like on Capitol Hill and of course whether or not his position has shifted at all on the filibuster. So a lot of questions for him, Kate, and we will be in that room in just a few moments.

BOLDUAN: Literally, in just moments. Thanks, Kaitlan. Good to see you.

So, one of the issues that the President will face is on the economy, jobs, economic recovery in the midst of COVID. Today we are getting a fresh report on what the country is facing on that front and what it looks like. Christine Romans has the details.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Kate, aside things are getting better in the jobs market, another 684,000 people filed for the first time for state unemployment benefits last week, the smallest number since the pandemic began.

However, for context, claims are still very high. They're still higher than the worst we saw at the peak of the Great Recession. Now warmer weather is allowing for outdoor activities and the vaccine rollout that means fewer layoffs, but the overall numbers still historically large between state benefits and pandemic emergency programs, almost a million people for the first time for aid.


Altogether, the government is paying more than 18.9 million people for jobless benefits. Kate, the hope is Main Street can turn the page, Wall Street did long ago. The bull market in stocks is now a year old. It's the strongest since 1945. The NASDAQ is up 75 percent in one year. People with money and resources have profited in the last year. But the jobs market is still down 9.5 million jobs since February last year. The percentage of women in the workforce has dropped to a 33- year low, progress but from a deep hole. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Christine, thank you so much.

And please stay with us, President Biden's first formal press conference about to get underway. Our special coverage starts after a quick break.