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First Hearing Begins in EU Case Against AstraZeneca; Miami Private School Discourages Teachers from Getting Vaccine; Blinken: We Need to Keep Working with Saudi Arabia; Videos of Police Shooting Become Source of Training; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Facing Growing Scrutiny Over Conduct. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 28, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The first hearing is under way in Brussels for the European Commission's case against drug maker AstraZeneca. It's suing the company for breach of contract saying AstraZeneca has not delivered the number of COVID vaccine doses it had promised. AstraZeneca says the lawsuit is without merit.

The EU had planned to use AstraZeneca as its main vaccine early this year, but the company's delays have made for a messy rollout in some countries.

So let's go live to Paris where CNN's Melissa Bell is standing by. Good to see you, Melissa. So what is the latest on this hearing and what are legal experts saying about the likely outcome?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the very first preliminary part of this procedure, it will first be put to a judge. Exactly how the European Commission intends to pursue this idea that it believes that AstraZeneca broke its contractual agreements. And there's going to be a lot of focus on the language of that, the best efforts or whether those were binding contractual promises to deliver a certain number of doses by a certain time.

The judge will then up to take several weeks to come back with his initial verdict. So this is something that could drag on for some time. But this is the legal expression really, Rosemary, of all that frustration and anger we've been hearing the European Commission so explicitly express these last few months and really everything became clear at the end of January, even as the European Medicines Agency first authorized the use within the EU AstraZeneca. The fact that there were likely to be delays.

Overall, what we now hear from the Commission is that in the first half of 2021 this contract with AstraZeneca -- remember it was the first one signed by the European Commission. It was one of the largest for 400 million doses, 300 million doses plus an option for another 100 million. There was lots of hope that this would be one of the vaccines that would help the European Union in its rollout. The most and in fact all of that has proved to be far, far different. In the end -- according to the commission -- in the first half of 2021

only a third of the doses promised were delivered, so 100 million compared to 300 million that had been promised. In the end that option for an extra 100 million simply set aside. And I think this is what matters beyond this legal procedure that is kicking off today, Rosemary. Is that the European Commission has already decided to look elsewhere. AstraZeneca is not allowed for use in Denmark, for instance. It is restricted in several European countries in terms of the age that people can have it at on the grounds of those fears over blood clots. And the European Commission has already decided that it's going to look to what it believes are far more reliable suppliers, and namely Pfizer with whom it is currently negotiating a contract, Rosemary, that would see 1.8 billion doses delivered to the EU by 2023. Essentially the commission is saying, look, we don't particularly need the AstraZeneca vaccine anymore at all.

CHURCH: All right, it will be interesting to see how all that ends up. Melissa Bell joining us live from Paris. Many thanks.

Well South America is also struggling to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many countries remain in the red as new infections have continued to climb during the past month. In Argentina, a presidential adviser says the government has resumed talks with Pfizer to purchase its vaccine.

Meantime Brazil's Senate is now investigating the government's handling of the pandemic. President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of sabotaging isolation measures, threatening local officials who implemented restrictions and discouraging the use of masks. The probe could lead to an impeachment vote ahead of next year's election.

Well despite U.S. health officials encouraging Americans to get the COVID vaccine, one private school in Miami is asking its teachers not to get vaccinated. While citing several false claims, the school says if teachers do get the shot they will not be allowed to return next year. CNN's Leyla Santiago has the details.


LEILA CENTNER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, CENTNER ACADEMY: Let's get more information. Let's learn more about this.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The CEO and cofounder of Centner Academy, a private school in Miami, is standing by her decision to try to stop faculty and staff from getting potentially getting lifesaving COVID vaccinations.

In a letter to faculty and staff, Centner tells teachers wanting vaccination to, quote, please wait until the school year ends and you will not be able to return to school until clinical trials are complete if a position is still available at that time.


Clinical trials in adults have been completed for all three vaccines to satisfy the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization requirements. CENTNER: No one has been -- to be fired or --

SANTIAGO (voice-over): She doesn't want students near anyone vaccinated against the coronavirus, but her decision is based partly on unfounded claims about the shots.

SANTIAGO: You want more information?

CENTNER: Yeah that's all I want. I want more information.

SANTIAGO: Have you looked at the FDA? Have you looked at the CDC? Have you looked at the World Health Organization? Because they do say that this is affective.

CENTNER: It's an experiment right now.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The academy has some 300 students, 70 staff members, and the school's website promotes medical freedom from mandated vaccines.

AMY PISANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VACCINATE YOUR FAMILY: When a school like this in a community that seems very close knit, that could easily turn into an outbreak, and a heartbreak. It could happen overnight and then all these children would be at risk and everyone in the local community would also be at risk.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): During our interview and in this letter, Centner cited a series of false claims behind her decision, including, quote, non- vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated, and falsely linking such interactions with a spike in miscarriages.

The CDC has been watching for an increase in miscarriages among vaccinated people and has not reported one.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Miami.


CHURCH: The Biden administration is taking a tougher stand on Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights and the war in Yemen. It released a report earlier this year implicating the crown prince in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Still the U.S. Secretary of State says the relationship with Saudi Arabia is an important one.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Like it or not, we are going to need to continue to work with Saudi Arabia, which remains a partner in many respects. And one of the things that we're trying to do as you know is bring the war to Yemen to an end. The crown prince is likely to be the leader of that country for a long time in the future. We have to work with leaders around the world who are engaged in conduct that we either object to or in some cases find reprehensible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Secretary Blinken's comments come as the Saudi crown prince made his own remarks during a televised interview. Joining us with more on this is CNN's John Defterios. Good to see you John. So what did the crown prince have to say about his relationship with the U.S. in that interview on Saudi state-run TV?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, Rosemary, a couple interesting things here with Tony Blinken, for example, showing a willingness to work with Saudi Arabia despite the reservations they have in Yemen and Jamal Khashoggi. And also in the Saudi TV interview the crown prince softening his approach overall to the Middle East and trying to rebuild bridges with the United States.

Soft language, a softer tone when it comes to Iran. They actually ended the economic embargo with Qatar in January before the Biden administration took office. and that you can see this move here with the United States despite the finger pointing on the CIA report, they said we have 90 percent in terms of common ground in terms of relations with the United States and he is eager to work on the final 10 percent. Let's take a listen.


MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI CROWN PRINCE (through translator): We are all working to promote our interests with all countries of the world to serve us and serve them. Also the matters that we disagree about are less than 10 percent. We are working to find solutions to them in order to determine the danger in our two countries. U.S.A. is without a doubt a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia. The partnership started 80 years ago.


DEFTERIOS (on camera): And the crown prince making reference to the meeting by FDR with King Saud back in 1945 with the long relations there.

And again, for the first time he said about Iran I want to see relations prosper, not to have difficult relations with our neighbor. That is quite a shift, but he held a firm line, if you will, Rosemary, on nuclear ambitions by Iran and using proxies from Yemen to attack the kingdom. And this is why Tony Blinken was saying they'd like to see the war in Yemen dragging on and led by Saudi Arabia come to a close.

CHURCH: And John, the crown prince announced that Saudi Arabia is in talks to sell off one percent of state oil firm Aramco. What is the motivation behind that?

DEFTERIOS: Well simply put, he's trying to unearth value from that crown jewel of the kingdom, if you will. Saudi Aramco is the largest oil company in the world. They did a partial listing at the end of 2019 only in Riyadh with regional aspirations by the crown prince to go to New York or London. But he is talking now about selling a one percent stake to a large energy company in a very large country. He didn't go beyond that. And he said the timeline is one to two years. A little bit odd to put this forward with that time of timeline in front of you here.


But he is trying to kind of unlock up to $20 billion, Rosemary, and the idea here is the second phase of his diversification plan. He has to raise money for foreign direct investment as well and bring down that unemployment rate. The Saudi people need to know that the vision 2030 is not about big projects but taking unemployment from 12 percent down to 7 percent. He didn't put a timeline on it, but clearly he says that is one of his things on the checklist, if you will.

CHURCH: All right, John Defterios joining us from Abu Dhabi, many things.

And coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesting has its place, but after protesting then what? We've got to talk solutions.


CHURCH: One U.S. police force is learning the lessons from officer- involved shootings across the country.


CHURCH: Calls for police reform are growing in light of numerous officer-involved shootings across the United States. Now one police department drawn into the spotlight for its own fatal shooting is applying lessons learned from these incidents, so they don't happen again. Ryan Young has more.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These four officers are working their way through a hands-on week of intensive training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what we are going to see is a team of officers who are dispatched to a distraught male on a bridge. They're going to trying and gain his compliance through de-escalation techniques.

YOUNG (voice-over): It's part of a realistic, high pressure moment that will go over in the days to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fine. I didn't call the police.

YOUNG: Roll play and work on simulators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we have a real subject. He is wearing a grey shirt.

YOUNG: Sir, it's okay. We'd just like to talk to you for quick second.


YOUNG (voice-over): All this in hopes of not having another tragedy like 22-year- old Stephon Clark in 2018, when police say officers believed he had a gun and shot and killed him in his backyard, but no firearm was ever found.

CHIEF DANIEL HAHN, SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Somebody has to do this, our community would not be safe without the work of police officers. And it's a tough job.

YOUNG (voice-over): Situations that officers face on a day-to-day basis across the country. Like those fatal police shootings of Daunte Wright in Minnesota, and Ma'Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio.

HAHN: When you look at the Ohio incident, it's really important because somebody died. If there's a better way after viewing that how that could've been half has that could've been handled, then all departments need to do it. You should be ashamed if you don't learn from somebody else's issues.

YOUNG (voice-over): So, the Sacramento PD takes that literally, turning graphic videos of controversial police shootings into teachable moments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can trick the brain very quickly into putting you physiologically in that environment.

YOUNG (voice-over): They can use virtual reality to recreate those police calls within a day.

LT. ZACH BALES, SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Some of these incidents you see on TV, almost immediately after a major police incident, we are able to take it and analyze it and then immediately incorporate any lessons learned into our training.

YOUNG (voice-over): Rotating all their officers through the training that reflects the diversity of challenges they face. While videos of police encounters like George Floyd's, feed calls for police reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesting has its place, but after protests, then what? We've got to talk solutions, and I don't want anybody in our community to be shot, myself, or you included.

YOUNG (voice-over): Solutions that for Chief Daniel Hahn start with a reckoning, and a problematic history of law enforcement in America.

HAHN: So, when people say defund the police department because we have racism in our past, first of all, we have to acknowledge that's absolutely true. So absolutely we have racism in our past. But so does our entire country. We have to deal with those just as much as we have to do with giving officers new equipment.

YOUNG (voice-over): And from situations like this one, where officers are trained not to engage physically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you turn around? YOUNG (voice-over): But intervene and de-escalate and keep the community and officers safe.

BALES: De-escalation is -- first of all, it is the expectation of the community. The community wants us to respond to these problems and help solve the problem. If we're escalating the situation, we're not helping solve the problem.


CHURCH: CNN's Ryan Young with that report.

Researchers have discovered a toxic waste dump off the coast of Los Angeles, deep sea robots used to map the sea floor took this video showing roughly 27,000 barrels dotting the San Pedro Basin after being dropped from moving ships. They are laced with toxic chemicals like DDT that have been harming wildlife for decades. The dump dates back to World War II, one of the main culprits the Montrose Chemical Corporation has been out of business for almost 40 years.

Well Britain's Prime Minister could have been launching a vaccine victory tour but instead he's fending off damaging accusations of dodgy dealings and one very heartless remark. We'll explain.



CHURCH: The British Prime Minister is facing scrutiny on several fronts over his conduct. Among the allegations that he showed a callous disregard for COVID victims, and that he lied about who paid for renovations to his residence. Isa Soares has the story.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a horrific year of deaths and lockdown, Boris Johnson had hoped for a triumph in spring, easing restrictions, opening up the economy and taking credit for Britain's successful vaccine program.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I literally did not feel a thing.

SOARES (voice-over): But as the prime minister hits the campaign trail this week, he faces damaging allegations about his conduct that might cast a shadow on the months ahead.

He's reported to have said he would rather let the bodies pile high than enforce a third lockdown, remarks said to have been made during a heated discussion in Downing Street in October. A British tabloid and two broadcasters cite unnamed sources for the claims. But Johnson denies he used these words but again and again he's asked, did he?

JOHNSON: No. But, again, I think the important thing I think that people want us to get on and do as a government, is to make sure the lockdowns work. MICHAEL GOVE, BRITISH MINISTER FOR THE CABINET OFFICE: The idea that he would say any such thing, I find incredible. I was in that room. I never heard language of that kind.

SOARES (voice-over): The prime minister approved a lockdown in October and, again, as the U.K. faced its deadliest wave this year.

JOHNSON: The government is once again instructing you to stay at home.

SOARES (voice-over): But the claim could fault the leader of the nation with one of the worst COVID-19 death tolls in the world.

JOHN RENTOUL, CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, THE INDEPENDENT: It's a bit of a horrifying thing to say, isn't it? You know, let the bodies pile up, pile high in their thousands. But it was some time ago and it was very much in the context of the difficult decision that the government faced at the end of October when they really didn't want a lockdown but felt that they had to.

JOHNSON: I consider this --

SOARES (voice-over): It's not the only story that threatens the prime minister's trademark optimism. A stack of claims, all denied, are piling up at Downing Street's door. There are demands for an independent inquiry into who paid for expensive upgrades to his Downing Street flat. Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, have spent tens of thousands of pounds redecorating their home, according to British news outlets.

A former top aide turned critic alleged Johnson planned to have Conservative Party donors foot the bill although his trade minister said Johnson has paid for it.

Dominic Cummings was once Johnson's right-hand man but left Number 10 in November amid a power struggle. He is now at war with former colleagues who worry what secrets he's prepared to spill.


RENTOUL: There could be other stories that are embarrassing to the prime minister that have yet to come out. And if Dominic Cummings has that kind of information, it looks as if he is prepared to stop at nothing to use it.

SOARES (voice-over): Cummings has denied being the source of the leaked text to the billionaire James Dyson. Johnson reportedly saying he would fix a tax issue if Dyson's staff came to the U.K. to produce ventilators during the first wave of the pandemic last year.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I make absolutely no apology at all, Mr. Speaker, for shifting him and when I could do everything I possibly could, as any prime minister would in those circumstances, to secure ventilators for the people of this country and to save lives.

SOARES (voice-over): Meanwhile, the opposition leader says claims about bad behavior and misconduct can't be brushed aside. KEIR STARMER, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Every day there's more evidence of this sleaze and, frankly, it stinks.

SOARES (voice-over): Only a third of Britons think Johnson is trustworthy -- according to a new poll. The worry for the prime minister is how to limit the damage and fellow row that shows no signs of simmering down.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.


CHURCH: Queen Elizabeth II has carried out her first public engagement since her husband's funeral. She held two virtual audiences on Tuesday to welcome the ambassadors of Latvia and Ivory Coast. The Queen was at Windsor Castle where the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral was held earlier in the month while the ambassadors were at Buckingham Palace.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is coming up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a wonderful day.