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States Ease Restrictions on May 19th; Pfizer to File for Full FDA Approval; Cheney Triples Down over Criticism; FDA To Authorize 12 to 15 Year Olds for Vaccination; DOJ Launches Police Department Investigations. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2021 - 09:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for a very quick "Good Stuff."

We want to show you this photo from the Carter Center. This was the visit of President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden with Jimmy and Roselynn Carter in Georgia last week. The were unable to attend the inauguration due to the pandemic. The former president is 96. The first lady, 93. And, Brianna, they're going to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary in July.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That's amazing, 75 years. I live for the "Good Stuff." It's great to see this photo.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.


Big news morning.

Hours from now, President Biden set to speak on the COVID-19 pandemic, progress of the vaccination program here in the U.S. and crucial next steps. It comes as some states hit hardest by the virus in the past, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, they announce they'll begin easing restrictions at restaurants, stores and public gatherings.

HARLOW: Amid this progress, one group of Americans, though, in focus. The virus is now spreading rapidly among young adults who have not been vaccinated. This makes this next bit of news extremely important.

We can tell you this morning a federal government official tells us at CNN, the FDA is poised to authorize the Pfizer COVID vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 years old. That could happen as early as next week. What we've also just learned is the last few minutes is that Pfizer

expects to submit its vaccine for emergency use authorization for kids ages two to 11 in September. Those are both big deals.

We're covering all of it this morning.

Let's begin with Miguel Marquez in New Jersey.

Good morning, Miguel.


Look, when you think of where we were a year ago, with those massive number of infections in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut, it was terrifying. Now those infections are way down. Way below 10 percent, below 5 percent in many cases. And those vaccinations are way up. So life -- I'm not wearing a mask for the first time in a long time doing a live shot while outside. I still have it on my wrist -- but life is beginning to return back to normal. And starting May 19th, for the tristate area, we can begin to breathe again and life will start to come back.

All restrictions to outdoor gatherings will be taken off across the tristate area. Restaurants will be allowed to operate to the fullest capacity they can as long as tables can be kept six feet apart. They'll be -- we'll be able to increase the general indoor residential gathering to 50 people for memorials or funerals or political events inside. You can now go to 250. And if you have a venue of 1,000 seats or more, these big venues, they can start to operate at 30 percent.

So music, nightlife, you know, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the subways are going 24/7 again. So that will have a massive effect on New York and people trying to get around to shows, to restaurants, to everything that New York gives. So that will be a massive, massive change.

And it's just -- it's a new day. And it's starting slowly because people still have a little PTSD after the year. But, you know, we are starting to move into a different phase.

Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: No question. Remarkable to see it in places. Some of the places that were worst hit at the peak of this, right, Miguel, but also the ones who were most conservative, you know, in the midst of this.

But Miguel Marquez there on the Boardwalk on the Jersey Shore.

Well, the other major development this morning, we are learning that Pfizer is expected to file for full FDA approval. That's to be distinguished from Emergency Use Authorization, which they've been operating under to this point, for its COVID-19 vaccine this month. That's a big deal, Poppy, because while they've already deemed it safe and effective and that's why millions of Americans have been vaccinated, this opens the door to other steps.

HARLOW: Yes, that's a good point. And then also what we've just learned is that Pfizer will submit for Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine in kids as young as two years old. Two to 11 years old. That application will come in September.

Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent, is with us this morning with a lot of headlines from Pfizer.

Could we just start there, selfishly, as the mother of a three-year- old and five-year-old, and any parents of young kids. I thought it was going to be like a year from now.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. It is moving so much quicker, I think, than many people thought. And then we'll move into my area, which is the 14-year-olds. So we'll start with your age, Poppy, and then we'll -- and then we'll go to my daughter.

So for kids who are the children of your -- the age of your children, Poppy, for the little ones, Pfizer is saying that they expect to apply for Emergency Use Authorization in September.


Again, that is faster than many people thought. But they started doing these clinical trials many months ago and they have a -- in technical language, accrued enough end points. In other words, they obviously seem to be getting toward having enough data that they feel that they can apply for an Emergency Use Authorization.

Now, for that, there is an independent panel of experts who will convene and look at that data because those children are much smaller and the FDA wants their independent experts to look at that data.

But now let's talk about the children who are the age of my daughter, 14. We are very excited that she could be getting a vaccine very soon. We're told that the FDA should be granting this Emergency Use Authorization for 12 to 15 very soon.

So let's take a look at some of the data there.

So Pfizer did a phase three trial with children that age, more than 2,000 children. It was 100 percent effective, which is really pretty amazing.

HARLOW: wow.

COHEN: Even better than in adults and also well tolerated, meaning that it was safe, that nothing bad happened. And, as we noted, they are still testing in six months to 11 years old.


HARLOW: This is really positive news all around.

Elizabeth, thank you very much.

All right, now let's turn from that news to politics and the growing rift in the Republican Party. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, number three Republican in the House, now tripling down on the truth. Imagine that. Is it going to cost her, her job, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Listen, that's what she's doing, she's saying Trump lost the election and that apparently has consequences today in the Republican Party. Cheney again blasting President Trump's continuing election lie and the consequence may be that she's losing support for keeping her leadership role. She is the number three Republican leader in the House. Only woman that high.

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and Rachael Bade, co-author of "Politico Playbook."

Both -- good to have both of you on this morning.

Jamie, you know, your reporting on this has been great. You know, there seem to be two parts of Cheney's public comments here. One is just recognizing the fact. Biden won the election, right? That by itself has consequences in today's Republican Party apparently.

But the other piece is going after the party for that inability to recognize it publicly, recognize the truth publicly. And I'm going to quote from your reporting. She says, we can't whitewash what happened on January 6th or perpetuate Trump's big lie. What he did on January 6th is a line that cannot be crossed.

These are the comments to a Republican conference.

Is she losing that battle within the Republican Party?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we're going to know very soon. I am being told to expect a vote on her leadership. They are having a meeting next week, May 12th. And we will know very shortly.

But certainly all the signals that are being sent say that her leadership position is in danger. That said, she knows that. And that is not why she is doing this. She believes that democracy comes above politics. And a lot of this also has to do with Kevin McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy is pushing her out. If he had not been making these public statements, these -- this vote wouldn't be happening. He is orchestrating the vote for one reason and one reason only. He wants to be speaker of the House and he wants to be in Donald Trump's -- back in his good graces.

HARLOW: So, Rachael, exactly to the point that Jamie just made, McCarthy just did an interview with Fox News and was asked if it was Liz Cheney's vote to impeach Trump, to convict Trump in the impeachment trial that led to this. Here's what he said, and I quote, no, there's no concern about how she voted on impeachment. The decision has been made. I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair to carry out the message.

It's striking for someone who the party liked so much that they elevated her this high after a single term.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, McCarthy is clearly trying to have it both ways right now. He's trying to say, oh, we're not going to punish her for her impeachment vote. This is about her ability to the do the job. But if you sort of look at what she's been doing, one of the criticism McCarthy has had is, you know, she's not focusing enough about -- on policy. But she really is. It's not until she's asked about Trump by reporters like myself that she sort of makes news.


BADE: And so what McCarthy sort of expects of these members, including the ten who voted to impeach Trump, those ten Republicans, is that they will sort of silence themselves and sort of keep their head down, fly under the radar and that is not something Liz Cheney is willing to do.

And I think Jamie is just -- is exactly right, this is about more than Trump versus Cheney, right?


This is about the ambitions of one man and McCarthy wanting to be speaker. He's made this calculation that in order to get this job that he has been trying to get for almost -- you know, more than half a decade, that he needs to have, you know, Trump's support and their relationship has been sort of on the rocks in recent months, and clearly sees this as a way to get back in his favor.

SCIUTTO: Well, the thing is, it's not just one man thinking that way, right? I mean two-thirds of the House Republican conference voted to overturn the election results. They made their own individual calculations that their political futures were aligned with a lie.

Jamie Gangel, it's also CNN's reporting that McCarthy is thinking about looking for replacing Liz Cheney with a woman because of the obvious criticism she's the highest ranking woman in the Republican Party.

I just wonder, by saying she's not doing a good job carrying out the party's message at this point, is that acknowledging that part of the party's messaging at this point is the big lie, because she's a lone voice saying it's not true?

GANGEL: I think that's absolutely correct, Jim. And the other thing we should remember is there was just a vote on Liz Cheney in February which she overwhelmingly won. I think it was 145 to 61.

Behind the scenes, she has amazing support actually from members, but they go home to their districts. I've spoken to several Republican members of the House and they say that they go home and they speak to voters and their voters and their friends and their supporters believe the big lie. I was told one member said that when Cheney speaks out, he looks bad and that she's, quote, killing him. So there is this underlying political reality of the voters are still with Donald Trump and their base.

HARLOW: Didn't the special election over the weekend in Texas tell us, you know, all that we need to know, Rachael, about what this means going forward in elections and what happened to Michael Wood getting completely creamed because he told the truth and then Trump comes in last minute and the candidate he backs soars?

BADE: Yes, I mean, that's exactly right, the base is believing Trump, Republicans believe Trump. And I think Republicans on The Hill right now feel that it's an inconvenience that their constituents, when they hear Cheney sort of push back on these lies, they are also asked about it or, you know, their constituents are agitating against Cheney. And so they don't want that inconvenience. They want to talk about policy.

But, I mean, there is a long-term implication here, and that is, if you oust Cheney from leadership, the signal you're sending is that you have to be 100 percent behind Trump, even as he's saying things that are false. And that if you speak out, you're going to be in trouble.

So, short term, maybe it keeps them from having to answer tough questions. Long term, it's going to cause a problem for the vitality of the Republican Party and it's going to turn off swing voters potentially in the midterms.

HARLOW: Right.

Thank you both, Rachael Bade, Jamie Gangel. An honor to be joined by your brains this morning and, again, great reporting from both of you on this.

BADE: Thank you.

GANGEL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come, with news that the FDA will authorize Pfizer's vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds as early as next week and Pfizer seeking Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine for kids as young as two in September, what does it mean for all of our schools in the fall?

SCIUTTO: Plus, calls growing for the Department of Justice to ramp up investigations into police departments around the country. We're going to speak to someone who led several similar investigations under the Obama administration. What she says needs to happen and what these investigations will accomplish and may not.

And, disaster in Mexico City as a subway overpass collapses -- pictures there -- killing at least 23 people, injuring dozens more. We're going to be live from the scene.


[09:18:35] SCIUTTO: Things are moving quickly for the broader approval of vaccinations for Americans, younger Americans. A major step in the effort to vaccinate our children. A federal government official tells CNN that the FDA is poised to authorize, give what's known as Emergency Use Authorization, for the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15. It's a big step.

HARLOW: And the decision could come as early as next week in what's believed to be a very straightforward process.

Let's bring in Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Nice to have some good news to welcome you with this morning.


HARLOW: It hasn't been the case for most of the last year and a half.

SAX: Yes.

HARLOW: So let's start there. Twelve to 15-year-olds approved maybe next week. Pfizer says two year -- you know, up to two years old -- two to 11 years old coming -- at least they are seeking approval authorization in September.

What -- does this mean we're going to have most of our kids vaccinated by October of next year -- of this year?

SAX: Well, that would be great -- that would be great news because I think that one thing to remember is that even though they don't get as sick, younger people do contract COVID-19 and they're playing a very key role in sustaining the pandemic, in particular, the older group. So that first move of getting the 12 to 15-year-olds eligible is really important.

Studies have consistently shown that that age group, plus the age group just above them, 16 to 25, has the highest instance of COVID-19 of any age group.


And it's not surprising when you think about how young adults and teens like to socialize.

SCIUTTO: Do we, Dr. Sax, have the supply to get these children vaccinated quickly? I mean I've already noticed, just in the last month, a real change when you were still fighting for an appointment for the vaccine, now a lot of cities just walk in, come in, we'll give you the shot. And the challenge now has becomes those who don't want to get the shot.

I just wonder, for this age group, does the U.S. have a supply and a plan to get shots into their arms quickly? SAX: Well, the supply issues look to be better all the time. The

manufacturing of the vaccines has increased substantially. We hope enough that it will eventually get vaccines to our international friends as well.

But, yes, I think we do. One thing that's going to be critical is the rollout of the vaccines into the hands of the primary care doctors, the pediatricians who are out there already giving vaccinations. I can tell you, because I'm married to a pediatrician, they are very good at getting shots into people and getting it to them would be very helpful in getting this to the kids who need them.

HARLOW: Schools have to make a -- I don't know if -- it's a hard decision for some, it's a really important decision for the country, and that's, are they going to mandate vaccinations? I just -- you know, my producer and I looked up just New York City, for example, public schools here, they mandate all sorts of vaccines.

SAX: Yes.

HARLOW: So, MMR, TDAP (ph), DTAP (ph), Hep B, Polio, chicken pox. Is this -- should this, in your medical opinion, be a mandated vaccine as soon as the age level is approved?

SAX: Well, I strongly support school mandates for vaccinations. That is actually one thing we in the United States do very well compared to some other countries. We have mandated school vaccinations across the age spectrum. And what it does is it dramatically reduces the people who decide, nah, maybe I won't get this vaccine. I'll let other people do it for me.

And so really strong public health initiative. And I would say we should start with our colleges right now because everyone going to college is over 18 and they're eligible and then move on as we get down to younger ages to mandated school vaccinations.

I do want to say that some people are -- have been concerned that since these are not fully FDA approved that Emergency Use Authorization won't allow this step to be taken. But several legal experts have weighed in already and said that that is actually not a hindrance.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sax, I wonder, speak if you can to parents of children in these age groups here because they will know that while children can spread this, just as easily as the next person, right, they have a much lower chance of getting severe illness compared to older members of the population. So I'll give you a moment here to speak to parents as to how they should approach this and why they should want to have their kids vaccinated.

SAX: Sure. Sure. We can already use some other examples. The -- there's a disease called rubella that every child gets a rubella vaccine. And the reason they get that rubella vaccine primarily is to prevent spreading rubella to pregnant women because rubella can cause a really devastating infection in pregnant women. So using these vaccines both to prevent people from getting sick

themselves and to prevent the -- and to improve public health is something that we've done for many, many years now. And society has bought into that. They said, yes, it's worth vaccinating children from rubella, which is often a very mild illness in kids, because you want to protect pregnant women.

SCIUTTO: Yes, sad fact is that what's new is that the issue has been politicized, right? Even the data has been politicized and that creates a whole new dynamic.

SAX: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope the science wins out.

Dr. Paul Sax, thanks very much.

SAX: Thanks. Thanks for inviting me.

SCIUTTO: Next hour, Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to face lawmakers in a congressional hearing as the country faces an ongoing reckoning with police reform. We're going to discuss.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. U.S. futures sliding a bit this morning. Investors weighing some, yes, strong economic data against inflation concerns and overheating concerns and, obviously, the global health crisis of COVID, particularly in India right now. We'll keep a very close eye on the markets.



SCIUTTO: As Congress continues to debate police reform with some signs of progress, a growing number of elected officials and advocacy groups are calling on the Justice Department to investigate police departments across the country.

Last month Attorney General Merrick Garland announced pattern and practice investigations, as they're known, of the Louisville and Minneapolis Police Departments following the deaths in Louisville of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Now more local officials are calling on the DOJ's Civil Rights Division to look into policing in their area.

Joining me now to discuss, Christy Lopez. She led or was the deputy chief of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department under President Obama. She's now a professor at Georgetown School of Law.

Thanks so much for coming on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So during the Obama administration, in which you served, the Civil Rights Division had opened 25 investigations, 14 consent decrees, basically agreements to kind of reform policing in those communities followed.

I just wonder, in your experience, what can these investigations and those consent decrees accomplish?

LOPEZ: Yes, well, first, I think it's real important to recognize, right, that in a democracy, the government has an obligation to make sure that police are abiding by the Constitution.


And the fact that the previous administration was refusing to undertake that responsibility was an embarrassment to our country and it was dangerous.