Return to Transcripts main page


FDA Expected to Authorize Pfizer Vaccine for 12 to 15-Year- Olds; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Triples Down on Criticism of Trump as Party Blasts Her. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2021 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: In a short span of time.


And a federal government official told CNN the FDA is poised to give emergency use authorization -- that's what we have no for adults -- for the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15. That could happen as early as next week. And that means that kids that age will be able to get vaccinated.

Pfizer also submitting plans to submit the same authorization for kids ages 2 to 11. That would come in September, vastly expanding the number of people who can get this safely. All this as the pharmaceutical giant plans to file for full FDA approval for adults, the rest of us, 16 to 85 years old, by the end of the month. I mean, we're already able to get vaccinated, but this opens doors for to some other steps.

We're covering all of this. Let's begin with Miguel Marquez. He's in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on the boardwalk, I believe.

Governor Phil Murphy there, Miguel, he says more than three million people vaccinated in that state, they can lift some of the restrictions that at the time, you know, at the height of this were the most restrictive in the country.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You think a year ago, Jim, and just how brutally terrifying the world was at that point with the infection rates here in New Jersey just astronomical and in New York and Connecticut. And today, just a few percentage points, those vaccinations are way up. So we can start to get back to life as normal.

I mean, just personally this is the first time I've gone -- you know, I'm vaccinated. The crew is vaccinated. People are also vaccinated. I cannot wear the mask on camera. I can just have it in case I go in somewhere. It is different world compared to just a year ago.

And now because of all of that, starting on May 19th, we're going to start seeing a lot of these restrictions go away. All those restrictions on outdoor activities, those will go away starting May 19th. Restaurants will be able to operate to the fullest they can as long as tables can stay six feet away from each other. They're going to lift restrictions on indoor gatherings to 50 people. If there are funerals or different events inside, political gatherings and the like, or memorials, you can have up to 250 people. And the big venues with more than 1,000 seats, they can start to operate at about 30 percent starting May 19th. MTA, the New York Subway System, also going to go 24/7 again, that will be a huge shot in the arm to the city there, so really starting to feel the effects of the vaccination.

Some people still concerned about wearing masks outside or not wearing masks. But, look, people have been PTSD for a long time over this. You know, it was such a traumatic year. Whatever people are comfortable with, great outdoors. But governments and society and shops and the world, we are starting to come back the at least here in the Tristate area. Jim?


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Something to smile about. Miguel, thank you.


HARLOW: Well, we've also learned this morning that Pfizer expects to file for full FDA approval, full FDA approval of its vaccine by the end of this month.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. And, Elizabeth, just maybe hard for folks at home to keep track of the language here, I mean, the vaccine has been deemed safe and distributed to tens of millions of people under emergency use authorization. Tell us what the change to full FDA approval will mean for the vaccine and for folks at home.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. So you can think of it this way. Most of the medicines that you take just in your full life have full FDA approval, that acronym is BLA, they have a BLA from the FDA. However, the vaccines we've been taking against COVID-19, they had to be done so quickly to get rid of this pandemic, they were done studiously. They were done in the right way. But still, they were done relatively quickly, and that's emergency use authorization.

So let's take a look at what this means practically, because, to some extent, it's just bureaucracy. But in other words, there are practical applications. So, again, Pfizer's vaccine currently has only emergency use authorization. This full approval, which they are expected to get, could make employers and schools more comfortable requiring the vaccine. Also full approval could make some vaccine-hesitant folks say, oh, I think I trust this more. It actually has full approval, not just emergency approval. Jim? Poppy?

HARLOW: So the next age group down, including your daughter, I think, it is, Elizabeth, who is 14, age group 12 to 15. How soon can 12 to 15-year-olds in the U.S. get the Pfizer vaccine?

COHEN: All right. Look, first, let's talk about how excited the Cohen family is, that its youngest member fill finally be vaccinated. So we'll get that out there first. But let's talk about this.

So, the Pfizer vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds, FDA is telling us that they will be getting an emergency use authorization likely next week. So that's very, very soon. Now, as far as the little ones go, Poppy, like your children, for 2 to 11-years-olds, Pfizer expects to file for emergency use authorization in September.


Now, for the little ones, the FDA is going to call in an external panel of experts to look at that data because they are so little. But still, that data hasn't come in yet. They're still studying children that young. Poppy? Jim?

HARLOW: All right. Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Dr. Amesh Adalja. He is a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. It's great to have you, Doctor, especially on some good news, which all of these kids that are soon going to be able to get vaccinated if the FDA gives the green light. What does this mean for all of us, right? Assuming -- and I know it's an assumption -- that most kids do get vaccinated by, say, October, does that mean herd immunity? And if they don't, can we not achieve it?

DR. AMESH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSEITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: It certainly gets us closer to herd immunity. So, right now, only a specific proportion of the population is eligible for vaccine. So if you can expand to 12 and 15-year-olds, that is more people vaccinated. That is less opportunity the virus has to infect people. That's a way to have extracurricular activities at schools be safer.

But remember, herd immunity is an important threshold. But I think if you look at Israel's data, when they got to 40 percent of the population totally vaccinated, they had a precipitous decline in cases. Their percent positivity is well below 1 percent right now.

So I think we will get the benefits of control of the pandemic before we cross that herd immunity threshold. We should still strive for it. But if we don't get it, it's not the end of the road. I think we still have control of this virus. We won't have hospitals in crisis, and we certainly don't have hospitals in crisis right now.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Adalja, I'm going to give you a moment here to talk to parents of children in that age group. You can imagine them coming to your office and saying, well, why do I have to get my child vaccinated because the data shows they're extremely unlikely to get serious disease from COVID-19?

Now, we know the science shows that you have to get the population vaccinated to truly bring the pandemic under control. But tell us how you would answer that question from a parent.

ADALJA: First of all, I would acknowledge that it is very true that children are spared from the severe consequences of this disease and that there are other infectious diseases like influenza, which might be more threatening to them. But we vaccinate against many diseases that don't necessarily have a strong impact on children because we don't want our children to get infected, we don't want our children to spread this to other individuals.

And while it is true that they don't have severe disease often, there are some subsets of children who do get severe illness. And this not something you want to get. It's not something that you would want anybody to have because there is some proportion that will get long haul syndromes. We still don't quite understand that. But this is a safe and effective vaccine and it wasn't something that was reflexively just to prove for 12 to 15-year-olds. There is a whole other clinical trial done because we wanted to do the risk benefit analysis because we knew that children are not going to be severely impacted and they're not major spreaders. So we want to do a whole new equation to see is this something worth doing in children? And it looks like it is going to be.

So this something I think the parents should take advantage of and I think it's something that will benefit their children's individual lives.

HARLOW: On schools, and the decision they all have to make in school districts on mandating this vaccine once it's approved for their age- group, is there any science-based argument not to mandate it? I ask because here in New York City, you have so many vaccines that are mandated, MMR, Tdap, polio, rubella, the list goes on. I mean, should schools be mandating this?

ADALJA: I do think that schools should really consider making this condition of entry. This is a virus that, even though it might not deadly to children, it's going to be very disruptive. And if you're going to have extracurricular activities, like football and cheerleading and basketball and wrestling, all of that is going to have a higher COVID-19 risk, and you don't want that impinging on your ability to conduct school. So when we see spread in schools, sometimes it's completely linked to these extracurricular activities. And we want schools to stay open. So this is one way that schools can continue their operations.

And I think it is something that we would want to have mandated at most schools. I think once it gets approved in that age group, once it gets full approval, this is going to be something that becomes very normal. It's going to become a childhood immunization and it's going to be something that looks more like the other vaccine we give children all the time.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, rubella, we talked about rubella last hour. That's one that doesn't get a lot of kids sick but we still vaccinate kids against it to keep it from coming back.

Dr. Adalja, you know, big picture here, we're seeing a lot of communities, even some of the most conservative, most hard hit by this lifting restrictions, because people are getting vaccinated, new infections are coming down, deaths are coming down. For folks at home listening, how should they take that in? Are there things that you're less comfortable with, they should be less comfortable with going forward, or is it now the time to emerge from -- emerge back into normal life?

ADALJA: These vaccines are doing exactly what they were designed to do. They remove the ability of this virus to cause serious disease, hospitalization and death. They allow you to reclaim your pre-pandemic life. So I think that people really should be able to go out there and do as much as the risk tolerance allows after they're fully vaccinated.


And that's what we're seeing with these restrictions. There's a lot of flexibility now. This is what we all hoped for. This is what we're all waiting for. So I think it's time to get back to normal life and to get more people vaccinated so it becomes even easier to do that.

SCIUTTO: Well, those are nice words to hear, right? After 15, 16 months of covering this story, it's nice to hear that. The science backs it up. Dr. Amesh Adalja, thanks very much.

ADALJA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, desperate families in India, a warning sign there, of course, a cautionary tale. They're being forced to care for dying relatives as coronavirus infections ravage the country. CNN takes you inside an overwhelmed hospital in crisis.

HARLOW: Also, the future of Congresswoman Liz Cheney back in the spotlight after she calls out former President Trump again and fellow Republicans over Trump's big election lie. Republican leaders say she's not, quote, carrying out the message. Is the big lie really the message now? Is that the litmus test for Republicans?

And in 24 hours, an oversight board will announce if former President Trump will be allowed to use Facebook again, big consequences there. We'll talk about it ahead.



SCIUTTO: This morning, Congresswoman Liz Cheney's leadership role in the Republican Party, she's number three in the House Republican Caucus, is back up in the air. This after she tripled down not just on criticism of former President Trump but also just acknowledging reality that he lost the election. Her latest words, we can't whitewash what happened or perpetuate Trump's big lie. What he did on January 6th is a line that cannot be crossed. That's a message she delivered to members of the Republican Party conference.

Manu Raju joins me now. And, Manu, she had a vote couple months ago. She survived it pretty well by about 2-1, looks like there may be another vote. Is she going to survive this one based on the conversations you're having?

RAJU: It seems unlikely at this point. Now, we don't know the final because this is a secret ballot election. The vote has not officially been called yet, but a growing number of Republicans have raised concerns, privately indicated they supported her last time and are unlikely to support her this time. And Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, is arguing that she is not doing her job as the conference chairwoman, the person in charge of the message of the conference.

He is arguing that it's not the fact she was one of the ten Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Of course, that got her in hot water with the former president along with her calling out Donald Trump's lies that he won the election. But he is saying that she is not doing her job to help bring Republicans back, to take back the majority. And that is a very big signal that he could potentially back her ouster. Back in February, he supported keeping her on his team. But now, he is indicating the opposite. Just this morning, he made clear why he says that Republicans want her out.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There is no concern about how she voted on impeachment. That decision has been made. I had heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one.

I haven't heard members concerned about her vote on impeachment. It's more concerned about the job ability to do and what is our best step forward that we can all work together instead of attacking one another.


RAJU: Now, McCarthy's position is significant here. Because as the Republican leader, he does have the power to call a quick vote and essentially push her out of the leadership position. The first time he'd able to do that is next Wednesday when the conference meets behind closed doors.

And his -- all of his public indication is that he is moving in that direction as Republicans are calling for her ouster. He is offering her no lifeline to keep that position. So it's pretty clear as tension is growing between the two, I'm told McCarthy has been furious with Cheney that things appear to be very grim for her and keeping this job, as Republicans are starting to jockey to be her replacement. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes. What did she do? She told the truth about the election. Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Let's about where this all goes. CNN Commentator Mary Katharine Ham is with me, and Margaret Hoover, CNN Contributor and Host of Firing Line on PBS. Two conservative women talking about a conservative woman who thinks it's important to tell the truth, as do you both all the time. So thank you for being here. Mary Katharine, Ohio Republican Representative Anthony Gonzalez put it this way. If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn't going to lie to people. She's going to stand on principle. I mean, how striking is that to hear that essentially he's saying it's a prerequisite to lead to lie in the party?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's why Liz Cheney is pushing back so forcefully, right? She's making the point, like I'm not going to stop saying this because it is the truth. And it can be poisonous for democracy if we don't acknowledge this truth.

Now, voters don't always love it when you tell them hard truths, do they? So that is the issue that the Republican Party is dealing with. But she has shown, look, despite professional costs potentially to me, I'm going to keep saying this thing.

And, look, last time the reporting was such that she might lose the last vote, but she did not. So I think this is one of those things were sort of standing tall and going through is the only way out.


Like you've got to have your backbone and you've got to say, look, this is what I believe. I'm not going to shut up about it. And I think that actually can earn you respect even from people who don't agree with you, right? That's what she's shown she was going to do. But it is tricky.

And the other thing is I think it can end up -- the problem for Republicans is that you do have to talk about policy, as she's saying, right? And I know that in this talk with Paul Ryan at an AEI (ph) event, she, no doubt, talked policy but that's not the story. This is the story, right?

HARLOW: Right.

HAM: So I think there is for the Republican Party where they have to learn how to do both.

HARLOW: So, I mean, Margaret, my colleague, Zachary Wolf, I thought, put it really well in his piece this morning. He said, facts are hazardous things for certain Republicans at the moment. And the polling from CNN in the last week shows it, that only 23 percent of Republicans polled believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the election. And then Texas special election over the weekend just cemented it. Listen to this from Republican Michael Wood who got creamed apparently for telling the truth about the big lie. Here he was with John Berman.


MICHAEL WOOD (R), FORMER CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Sometimes can you run a great campaign. And if the dog doesn't like the dog food, then you're not going to get many votes, which was what I think happened a few days ago. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The dog food was speaking the truth though, right?

WOOD: Yes, it's very unfortunate.


HARLOW: Is that --

HAM: Did he refer to voters as dogs? That would be a first step.

HARLOW: I didn't read that way, but maybe, maybe.

HAM: But this is -- I mean, there is an issue where you have to communicate even if you're disagreeing with people on a fundamental issue. You do have to communicate with respect to them, even while you're speaking that truth. And I think that may be some of disconnect with the candidate we just heard.

HARLOW: Okay. Fair, and we all -- we can think about the deplorable's comment and the other party as well to that point.

But, Margaret, what is your reaction to what all of those things I just mentioned say about what part of your party or guiding principle can win?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, what we know and what you demonstrated in that clip is that there is a large portion of the conservative base of the Republican Party that absolutely demands that Republicans believe the big lie and repeat big lie and say it over and over again, Donald Trump won the election, really won the election and this was a fraud, that Biden is an illegitimate president. And that is a prerequisite, right? It is the extension of the cult of personality around Donald Trump and everything he believes that gets you a safe spot in the Republican -- in face of the Republican Party, okay?

We see that not just in Texas. You see it in Arizona, where one of the houses of the state legislature has actually passed a bill that would enable electors to be recalled after the secretary of state sanctions the election. I mean this is happening in every state across the country. And this is happening in Congress. Congress reflects that.

Kevin McCarthy needs to be the leader here. Kevin McCarthy has entirely within his control to push back these forces, to temper them and to enable the party to be a diverse party with multiple voices, multiple viewpoints. And, by the way, some women, okay, Liz Cheney now represents one of 31 women in the House of Representatives GOP Conference.

This is on Kevin McCarthy. Liz Cheney is doing everything she can to tell the truth, to be a beacon of truth for the party and he better understand that the more Marjorie Taylor Greenes and the more lies propagated in his conference, the less power his party is going to have in the future. You look at Arizona and the crazy in that Arizona state party and you look at the fact they have two Democratic senators now.

This was a red state just ten minutes ago, all right? If Republicans want to have a future at the national level and the suburbs and be a party that is a big tent party, to be competitive in national elections, let's win a presidential election with a popular vote, don't say it's a lie. Let's really build a coalition. Kevin McCarthy has got the power to do that right now by helping Liz Cheney keep her leadership post.

HARLOW: He's not going to. That was very clear this morning.

Mary Katharine, Michael Gerson, the former aide to President George W. Bush, a conservative columnist now in The Washington Post, writes, nothing about this is normal. The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs but by its shared delusion, knowing they're repeating a lie and act of immorality is now the evidence of a Republican fidelity.

I'm not as interested and if you think he's right or not. I'm interested in why. Like what is the core driver behind this, the why?

HAM: It's that people are mad that Biden is president and they cannot believe that enough people just liked Trump or liked Biden to vote that way. So they have made up another story. That is what is happening here. And, look, I think every Marjorie Taylor Greene, as Margaret points out, is going to overshadow eight Michelle Steels from California, right? And that is bad for the party.


Because if you want to reach suburban moms, for instance, you can talk about schools, I don't know, being open that have not been opened in almost a year in some places. And that is a message that can work as opposed to pretending that Biden is not the president. That is not a message that works.

It is, I think an electoral existential problem for Republicans if we are a cult of personality for Donald Trump. The problem for Republicans also could be an electoral existential problem if you tick off too many Trump voters. So that is the line that they were attempting to walk but you have to tell the truth first while doing it.

What I would offer as a counterexample, imagine if in 2020, your message as a Democrat was to go around and remind people that the Mueller report found that Trump was not a Russian client (ph) who colluded with the Russian government to become president of the United States, and, in fact, was elected. A bunch of voters would get ticked off at you because they were reminded of that fact, which is true, but it ain't working with voters all the time. And that is something that both political parties must wrestle with but you got to tell the truth first and foremost.

HARLOW: It's like we're talking to our toddlers, right? You have got to tell the truth. Thank you very much, Mary Katharine Ham and Margaret Hoover. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.