Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. CDC Advisers to Discuss Johnson & Johnson Vaccine; Biden Administration Launches Vaccine Initiative; EU Declines to Buy 100 Million Additional AstraZeneca Doses; State of Emergency Expected in Tokyo, Osaka and Elsewhere; Day Two of U.S. Led Summit Gets Underway in Coming Hours; SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Ready for Trip to Space Station; Navalny's Doctors Urge Him to Stop Hunger Strike; Search Intensifies for Mission Indonesian Submarine. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 23, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: We should know later today whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go back into use amid fears it causes blood clots.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable, but the cost of inaction keeps mounting.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden bets big on climate, announcing sweeping new goals for the U.S. at a summit of world leaders.

And less than two hours and counting until the planned launch of SpaceX, we are live at the Kennedy Space Center.

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.

The future of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. could be decided in the coming hours. Vaccine advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will discuss how to move forward with the one-dose shot. Now, this comes after a handful of rare blood clot cases were reported.

The nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects U.S. regulators to follow Europe's lead and allow the shot to be used, but with a warning or restriction. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gutpa also weighed in.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's rare. It's still rare, you know. Maybe there's a couple more people who develop this, but not significant numbers. I don't know what they're going to sort of recommend tomorrow as part of this advisory committee.

It is likely if you look at what happened in Europe, Europe Medicine Association, agency, they basically said we're going to put a caution with this, but we're not going to say that certain people should take it or not take it. Perhaps if you've got a history of low platelets or blood clotting problems in the past then this caution would apply to you, but that's likely what's going to happen. I don't think they're going to get rid of the vaccine all together and I don't think they're necessarily going to limit it to certain people, either.


BRUNHUBER: But the demand for vaccinations is starting to wane in the U.S. Vaccine hesitancy is the key factor, another is misinformation. Now, the Biden administration is launching a new initiative to increase vaccine confidence. CNN's Nick Watt has the story.


JACOB MCMORRIS, PARISHIONER, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH, BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA: I know it works medically but when you put something in you to help you stop from getting it, you know, that just -- that just doesn't work for me.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So, here's who HHS recruited to help fight such vaccine hesitancy, Walter Kim, president, National Association of Evangelicals, also the WNBA, NASCAR, a couple of sharks, Seacrest and Ripa.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: My job now is to make sure every American knows this vaccine is available to them, that it is safe, that it is effective, and they should go and get vaccinated.

WATT (voice-over): One report suggests that hesitancy means vaccine supply may outstrip demand within weeks.

Early in the vaccine rollout, waste was the worry.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is such a precious resource and really this wasting should not be tolerated at all.

WATT (voice-over): New CNN analysis of CDC data finds through the end of March, one in every 850 doses was unused, spoiled, expired or wasted. One-third of American adults are now fully vaccinated. Dodgers Stadium will have a section just for them in the stands. Saturday, the CDC is working on updated guidance for the vaccinated.

Average daily new case counts here down 12 percent in a week. Elsewhere on earth, a very different story. In India, an all-time global record, nearly 315,000 new cases reported in one day.

CHANDRIKA BAHADUR, CHAIR, LANCET COMMISSION ON COVID-19 INDIA TASKFORCE: We're going through pretty much the worst possible phase of the pandemic.

WATT (voice-over): Help to save my mother, I love her more than anything. Just one plea on social media. Many hospitals, morgues, graveyards are now full.

WATT: So while federal officials here in the U.S. mull updating their guidance for the fully vaccinated and wondering whether they should extend the mask mandate on mass transit, some places are taking the lead. The state of Rhode Island just named a date, from May 7th you will no longer have to wear a mask outdoors.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.



BRUNHUBER: So while the United States waits on a Johnson & Johnson vaccine decision, the EU is passing up the opportunity to buy 100 million plus doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. That comes as many European countries are seeing cases drop, but some are fighting off a third wave.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us live from London. So Scott, explain the thinking here given that one of the biggest issues the EU has been dealing with has been vaccine shortfalls.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, yes, so this is not all that surprising. The EU has had a pretty difficult relationship with AstraZeneca. There is some public skepticism of the vaccine because in part at least because of some very extremely rare blood clots found in extremely small number of people. The EU has also complained that the company that is not delivered the doses that it ordered on time. And so it's actually imposed export restrictions on those doses.

So the company had -- or the EU, excuse me, had an option to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine in its contract with AstraZeneca, the deadline to do that has now come and gone with no purchase. The EU thinking here is why would it order more doses of a vaccine when it is struggling to simply get its hands on the doses that it has already ordered.

Europe, though, Kim, is not out of the woods when it comes to the virus, not even close. It is still struggling in many parts to tamp down a third wave of the virus, so much so that there is still a nationwide curfew in effect in France, and Germany has just passed controversial new legislation which gives the federal government more power. Up until now German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been able to set coronavirus restrictions for the country. But it's been largely up to each of Germany's 16 states to decide how and if they actually implement those restrictions.

So at times you would have one state battening down the hatches, imposing new restrictions while the state next door would be doing the opposite, loosening restrictions and opening things up. So right now under this new legislation the federal government has the power to impose restrictions and curfews once case counts in certain areas reach a certain threshold. If case counts reach a higher threshold the federal government can even impose school closures in various regions of the country. Germany is now recording its highest case counts that it's had since

January, the numbers in France are even higher, deaths are falling in both countries but they're falling at a much sharper clip in the U.K. which obviously is way ahead when it comes to vaccinations.

But the odd thing here about what's happening in Europe, Kim, is that while Germany is imposing these new restrictions or at least looking to, to try to get a handle on the virus, case counts are higher in France and yet the country is going in the opposite direction. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that he believes that the worst of the third wave has come and gone and so on Monday schools for the youngest students will reopen. The government has also has its eye on loosening travel restrictions within the country in just over a week from now.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, in some ways it feels like we're just going around in circles. Thanks so much CNN's Scott McLean from London. Appreciate it.

Well in the coming hours Japan is expected to declare yet another state of emergency in key parts of the country. That will include Tokyo just three months before it's set to host the Olympics, but the epicenter of Japan's fourth wave of infections is Osaka and that's where we find our Selina Wang whose standing by live. Selena, even if you forget about this Olympic context here, I mean, this is worrying, including the timing. What's the latest?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, that's exactly right, it's hard to believe we're just three months away and the scenario is going to be more than 11,000 athletes coming from more than 200 countries, something that many experts tell me Japan is simply not ready for. They are struggling to contain this fourth wave of cases which is driven by these more contagious COVID variants.

And now this state of emergency that will be imminently impose is not going to be a hard lockdown. And actually, many prefectures in Japan including Tokyo and Osaka have already had these quasi state of emergency rules in place. Like asking bars and restaurants to close early. And so far it hasn't worked. COVID cases here have been continuing to rise topping 5,000 cases a day.

And I'm here in Osaka which you said is the current epicenter of this fourth wave, it's been hardest hit. The governor here has said that the medical system is on the brink of collapse. And a staggering statistic as well from the government panel of experts who say that about 80 percent of the COVID cases here in Osaka are coming from those more contagious COVID variants.

Now under the state of emergency the government is expected to ask large commercial venues such as shopping malls and department stores to temporarily close and there will also be penalties if some people violate those COVID restrictions.


Japan's government recently changed the law to allow that type of legal enforcement. But still, Kim, the question is how effective is this going to be?

Behind me there's been a steady stream of people, I had to walk through a busy shopping area to get here, still a lot of foot traffic. It is clear that COVID fatigue has very much set in here in Japan. And the reality is that that less than 1 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated. So even though the Prime Minister and Japanese officials continue to say that the state of emergency, this COVID wave, is not going to impact the Olympics, public skepticism and opposition remains high.

BRUNHUBER: All right, Selina Wang, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

Well, day two of an ambitious global summit to fight climate change gets under way in the next few hours. And already many world leaders have made verbal promises to curb their nation's output of greenhouse gases, now it doesn't guarantee they will actually do it, but it was an encouraging first step. President Joe Biden who is hosting the summit said the world's biggest economies need to step up beginning with the U.S.


BIDEN: No nation can solve this crisis on our own as I know you fully understand. All of us, all of us, and particularly those of us who represent the world's largest economies, we have to step up. That's why I've proposed a huge investment in American infrastructure and American innovation, putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half, in half, by the end of this decade.


BRUNHUBER: The two-day climate summit is setting the table for a global conference later this year in Scotland. By then many countries are expected to have announced how they plan to meet their climate targets. We get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden will convene world leaders for the second day of a climate summit here at the White House on Friday. Continuing the discussions about how global leaders will confront the urgent crisis of climate change.

Now, we saw the first round of speeches on Thursday here on Earth Day with President Biden really drawing attention to a new commitment from the U.S. to assert itself back on to the world stage. Of course, on the first day that President Biden took office he rejoined the Paris Climate Accords. Now, this of course is taking it one step further.

He is calling for by the end of this decade to reduce emissions by half. Now, that certainly is a very ambitious proposal that is, you know, short on specifics, but the president clearly making it clear that this is no longer the Trump administration. The Trump era is indeed over.

But it was so interesting to see President Biden talking with other world leaders. Now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the U.S. back to the stage. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said what Joe Biden is proposing is ambitious. He said, look, this is not a discussion for elitist, in his words bunny huggers. He said this is an urgent conversation that must be had for businesses and others around the world.

But interestingly as well, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin making an appearance at the summit, as did President Xi Jinping of China. Clearly their emission goal is much different. But the fact that they were participating in this meeting convened by President Biden means that the United States after four years of denying climate change is back at the forefront of leading this fight. The hard work now, though, continues by cutting emissions here in the U.S. by half by the end of the decade.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Well ending global addiction to fossil fuels will take time, money and sustained commitment and obviously that's the challenge. CNN's Bill Weir has our report.


BIDEN: Oh, science is unmistakable, science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could call it a renewal of American vows, and despite their massive reliance on coal, even China showed up. Joining the promise to break an addiction of fuels that burn to save both life and treasure.

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT: Green mountains are gold mountains, to protect the environment is to protect productivity.

WEIR (voice-over): Yes, promises are just promises. But considering that the last four earth days came under a president who refused to acknowledge the emergency --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're at the cleanest we've ever been.

WEIR (voice-over): Those who trust the science have fresh hope.

JOHN OPPERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EARTH DAY INITIATIVE: The environmental movement in the climate community is very hopeful but very anxious about where we go from here.

WEIR (voice-over): Even as the pandemic forces rallies with avatars on screens instead of protests in the streets, and the Capitol lockdown prevents the kind of Sunrise Movement sit-ins that forced a promise of a Green New Deal, there are worries that members of Congress and corporate greed will get in the way of transforming every sector of the economy.


OPPERMAN: People are concerned that we're just not taking it seriously and whatever gets proposed history tell us will likely get watered down.

WEIR: There are actually very smart people at Harvard considering what is called solar geo engineering to mimic volcanoes, to send sorties of airplanes or balloons or rockets to basically try to dim the sun with long distances. What do you think of that idea?

GAVIN SCHMIDT, SENIOR CLIMATE ADVISER, NASA: As a scientist, I think, oh, that's an interesting process and like it mimics what we see with the volcanoes and we think, OK, well that could work. And then, as a citizen, right, so my other hat, I'm thinking, no, this is a terrible, terrible idea.

WEIR (voice-over): As part of his effort to inject climate science into every department in government, President Biden recently made Gavin Schmidt the acting head of climate science at NASA, where they not only measure planet cooking pollution in the sky but are now using their tools on everything from wind farm planning to carbon free aviation.

SCHMIDT: For the first time since I've been working on this, people are talking about solutions and reactions that are commensurate with the size of the problem. You know, it's not oh, well, let's just recycle our plastic stores. You know, people are talking seriously about how we cut emissions, and personally that leaves me room for optimism.

WEIR (voice-over): So, on the 51st Earth Day, it seems like the age of denial is finally becoming the age of cost benefit analysis and action. And for young activist like Xiye Bastida who closed out the morning session, it's about time.

XIYE BASTIDA, CLIMATE ACTIVIST, FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE: You are the ones who are finding loopholes in your own legislations, the resolutions policies and agreements. You are the naive ones if you think we can survive this crisis in the current way of living.

WEIR (voice-over): Biden's pledged success will come down to how many around the world understand the enormous cost of doing nothing.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: A SpaceX crew dragon capsule is on the launch pad and the countdown is proceeding. So I think we're going to show you some live pictures here. That's right. There they are. Four astronauts, well you can't see them yet, but they are about an hour and a half away from liftoff on a journey to the International Space Station. There they are. CNN's Rachel Crane joins me now from the Kennedy Space Center in

Florida. No more delays, everything is a go. Tell us a bit more about what makes this launch a little bit different.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN, INNOVATION AND SPACE REPORTER: That's right. All systems are a go right now, everyone here at Kennedy Space Center, you know, hoping that mother nature is on our side and that we don't encounter any technical difficulties.

Let me bring you up to speed on the TikTok here. Right now you can see the astronauts are strapped into their seats, they are suited up in that space capsule endeavor, the hatch is closed. So the next major milestone will be about 45 minutes before their scheduled launch at 5:49 Eastern time today, this morning, from Kennedy Space Center. That will be when the fuel will start to be loaded on to the rocket.

And there's something really, really unique about this system today. The whole system, the space capsule endeavor as well as the Falcon 9 first-stage booster, they've been used before. So this is, you know, one of SpaceX's major tent poles in their strategy is reuse, to bring down the cost of space exploration. This is the first time that a space capsule and a Falcon 9 booster will be flying a crew when they've been flight proven.

Let me tell you a little bit about the crew flying today. It's a multi-national crew. We have two NASA astronauts on board, Megan McArthur, the pilot, Shane Kimbrough. He is the commander of the mission. And then we also have JAXA astronaut, Akihiko Hoshide, as well as ESA astronaut, Thomas Pesquet. So they will be flying today hopefully at 5:49 Eastern time this morning. It hopefully will be a smooth ride and a beautiful one.

We are all -- you know, we all have those flight butterflies right now leading up to this launch. So a lot of excitement here at Kennedy Space Center and you really can feel that the cadence of these flights has picked up. You know, this is the third time in under a year that I have been at Kennedy Space Center covering one of these flights. You know, that's a stark contrast to the nearly decade that we had when there were no crewed flights taking off from Kennedy Space Center and we were reliant on the Russians.

This is of course part of a multi-billion dollar deal that NASA struck with SpaceX to take over these crewed flights to the International Space Station all in an effort so that NASA can, you know, set their sights on those deeper space missions getting us back to the moon and hopefully one day onto to Mars.


BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Well we'll be watching this for the rest of the morning until we see liftoff there. Rachel Crane from the Kennedy Space Center, we really appreciate it.

All right, coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Alexey Navalny's doctors have a blunt warning for him. We will tell you about it next. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Five doctors treating Alexey Navalny have a blunt warning for him, eat or die. They're urging the jailed opposition leader to end his weeks' long hunger strike right now. After Navalny was taken to a civilian hospital on Tuesday his doctors published a joint letter saying he received something akin to an independent assessment by the area's top kidney and neurology experts. But Navalny's own doctors have yet to examine him.

The Biden administration has denounced Russia over its treatment of Navalny and spoken out over his treatment of protesters, but questions remain about what other steps the U.S. may or may not take. So the Biden administration says if anything happens to Navalny there will be consequences. Listen to this.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Mr. Navalny, I think, embodies and in many ways personifies what has befallen to the broader issue of human rights in Russia.


The fact that the Russian government has sought to silence Mr. Navalny has literally attempted to assassinate him using a banned chemical weapon. The fact that he now sits in their custody, is in their custody. The fact that the Russian government has clamped down, including even in recent hours on those Russians who have peacefully taken to the street to do nothing more than to exercise the rights guaranteed to them under their own constitution, the Russian constitution, I think is emblematic of what has become of human rights in Russia.


BRUNHUBER: And our Sam Kiley joins us now from Moscow. Sam, we just heard there the U.S. threatening action if anything happens to Navalny, but it sounds as if his team is saying that Navalny himself holds at least part of his fate in his own hands. What more can you tell us?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's absolutely right. Navalny today will have to decide whether or not he ignores the advice of his own team of doctors, five of them signing an open letter that they say based on tests conducted on their patient by another team of independent doctors following his move from a penal colony hospital to a civilian hospital, that he is or could be in imminent danger of renal failure, neurological damage. There is the suggestion that he is already suffering some kind of convulsions and that he could suffer heart failure.

Now, given that conclusion they are suggesting to him that he should end his hunger strike because he is in mortal danger. They're saying as physicians that has to be the advice that they give. Now, it now becomes a political question for him as to whether or not he elects at this stage to agree that since he's been seen by independent physicians rather than government-appointed physicians, he has had the sort of -- or is getting the sort of medical treatment that his hunger strike was intended to force. Or whether he will continue with his hunger strike. Because following the Novichok poisoning he endured in August last year he still needs in his view extra specialized treatment that only his personal physicians can deliver. And that is something that is still being denied him by the Russian state.

So he does face something of both a conundrum in terms of his own physical health, but also in terms of his continued campaigning against the Russian government. And of course, as the State Department spokesman was saying there he does now embody physically embody the whole movement of opposition against Vladimir Putin and that his whole movement of course is looking forward to September elections when they want to take the Russian president on his and supporters on at the polls.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Sam Kiley, thanks so much for that. Appreciate it.

Russian troops have been ordered back to their home bases after massive military drills near Ukraine. As many as 100,000 Russian troops had amassed near the border in recent weeks. That's according to European Union estimates. The drills raised tensions in Eastern Ukraine where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

The U.S. is the latest nation to announce it's joining the effort to help find Indonesia's missing submarine. The vessel and it's 53-member crew haven't been heard from since the day it took a deep dive on Wednesday, search teams are up against the clock and the submarine's dwindling oxygen supply. Our Blake Essig is following developments for us from Tokyo. Blake, time is running out, where are they with the rescue operations right now?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well unfortunately, Kim, the submarine still hasn't been located. And as you mentioned, time is running out. Now the search and rescue operation is focused on an area about 100 kilometers off the coast of Bali. Now this is the area where contact was lost with the submarine on Wednesday morning, and an oil spill was detected.

Now Navy officials said at some point today a ship with high tech sonar capabilities was expected to arrive on scene to help locate the missing sub. Navy officials also said that a different ship with sonar capabilities detected an unidentified object with high magnetism about 50 to 100 meters below sea level. But so far we haven't received any updates regarding what that could be.

Now the search and rescue mission has turned into an international effort with Singapore, and Australia, and India, as well as Malaysia all sending ships, while the United States is sending airborne assets to try and help. Now sadly, the facts as we know them right now don't paint a positive picture for the 53 people on board this missing sub. If the crew is still alive navy officials say that the submarine only has enough oxygen for the crew to survive until Saturday morning 3:00 a.m. local time. That's about ten hours from now. Navy officials say that this particular sub, the Nanggala-402, has a

dive capability of 500 meters but is currently believed to be at a depth of about 700 meters.