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Official Says, FDA Plans Authorize Pfizer Vaccine for Ages 12- 15 Next Week; U.S. Travel Restrictions on India Now in Effect; Senior House Republican Says, Liz is Gone, Just a Question of How and When. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 4, 2021 - 13:00   ET


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Frankly, the real need at the moment certainly, visibly, is here in New Delhi.



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Sam Kiley, grateful you and your team are on the ground at this critical moment. I appreciate the live reporting.

Thank you for joining us in Inside Politics. I'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, thanks for being with us on this Tuesday.

We are following multiple stories today. Next hour, President Biden will speak on the U.S. COVID-19 response and vaccination program. This comes as there are big moves on the vaccine front today, especially for children.

A government official telling CNN the FDA is set to green light the Pfizer COVID vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds by early next week.

Also Pfizer saying in September, it will try to get its vaccine authorized for much younger children, ages 2 to 11.

Meantime, more than 31 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated and some of the hardest hit states are reopening. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, most COVID capacity restrictions will end in just a couple weeks. That means busy restaurants, 24/7 subway service and Broadway plays will all be returning.

Now, despite promising signs here, in India, there are still overcrowded hospitals, oxygen shortages, and funeral pyres outside crematoriums as the number of COVID cases there now tops 20 million. Starting today, travel from India to the United States is now restricted for non-U.S. citizens. But, first, I want to begin with all the promising news on the vaccine front from the FDA and Pfizer. With us now is CNN's Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, two big headlines in this race to vaccinate children against COVID-19, tell us what you're learning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ana. I think what this means is that children 12 to 15 could be getting vaccinated, maybe even next week, and as far as children ages 2 to 11, that will likely wait until the fall. But still, this has moved much faster than many expected.

So let's take a look at the specifics. So, for 12 to 15-year-olds, the FDA is likely to give emergency use authorization next week, is what we're hearing. That's after a clinical trial with more than 2,000 children that age showed it was safe and 100 percent effective.

Now, as far as 2 to 11-year-olds go, Pfizer is expected to file for that emergency use authorization in September. So that is all good news. It means that vaccination for children is on the way.

We know that children don't tend to get as sick as adults do with COVID-19, however, children do sometimes get very, very sick with COVID-19, and anyone who has a child knows the children are very capable of spreading germs to others. Ana?

CABRERA: And obviously we just don't know the long-term impact either if somebody does get COVID-19, as we are seeing more and more long- haulers and additional researches underway in that department.

All the vaccines here in the U.S. right now, Elizabeth, are just authorized for emergency use. But Pfizer also said today it is hoping to get full approval. So what is the process for that and how is full approval different from the emergency use authorization?

COHEN: So, the process, Ana, is actually very similar to the emergency use authorization process that we saw for Pfizer in December, except it's longer. They're not -- they're sort of going to have more meetings, look over more data, they may bring in an outside panel of experts, again, so it's much more like what we're used to when we're not in an emergency. All the other drugs you've taken have this full approval, not the emergency use authorization that was done last year.

So let's take a look at what this means practically. In some ways, it doesn't mean anything. Right now, you can get the vaccine. We don't really care how it's approved or authorized, it's there for us to take. But it does make a difference in a couple of ways. Full approval could make employers, schools, more comfortable requiring the vaccine. They could require it with emergency use authorization but they might not feel as comfortable.

Also, full approval might make some people who are vaccine-hesitant feel more confident that they want to take the vaccine. Ana?

CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, as always, thank you for your reporting. Three states and some very big changes in about two weeks, CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us from the Jersey Shore. Miguel, full reopening in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut is set for May 19th. What's the reaction so far?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction from me is that I can breathe again. It feels really nice to do a live shot without wearing a mask, even though I still keep it around my wrist. My crew is vaccinated. I'm vaccinated. People around us are vaccinated. It feels like a different day.

I want to show you a little bit the Jersey Shore here. If you see the building, if you go into buildings on the boardwalk, still masks are required inside. We know CDC has now said that if you're outdoors, no longer need to wear a mask.


The governor of New Jersey, interestingly enough, have said, out of an abundance of caution, until we know more, keep your masks on. But you can see up and down the shore, there are some people with masks, some people without masks. It all depends on your comfort level.

But on May 19th, that's the big day for the Tristate area, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where the numbers were just astronomically high, one year ago today, and now it feels like a beautiful spring day, and people are starting to live again.

All the restrictions on outdoor gathering limits, those will go away on those three states on the 19th of May. Indoor dining, you can dine indoors, there's no restrictions, except the tables have to still be six feet away from each other, starting on May 19th, and also an increase in the number of people you can have, up to 50 in your residence, and those large venues can open up to 30 percent.

So Ana, it's a new day, and thankfully so, back to you.

CABRERA: I hope we can continue to breathe a little bit easier, Miguel, and this doesn't go back the other way. I'm with you 100 percent. I went for a run without a mask the other day on a non-busy trail, and it felt so good. Thank you.

Also, starting today, any foreign nationals who have been in India over the past two weeks will not be allowed to enter the U.S. as COVID infections continue to spiral out of control in that country. CNN's Sam Kiley is on the ground in New Delhi.

Sam, there has been a dire need for oxygen to treat patients there. Other countries have been trying to get supplies to you. Any impact on that yet?

KILEY: No visible impact, Ana. There has been a substantial international effort and I have to say, and even more substantial as you would expect, national effort to try to get oxygen properly distributed around the country, not least here to the capital, New Delhi. But just in the last hour or so, a hospital called the Rainbow Hospital in the city put out an appeal saying that they had one hour of oxygen left for its pediatric unit, which includes babies in incubators, more than nearly a dozen babies in incubators, their lives endangered by the possibility that they could simply run out of oxygen.

We were in a hospital last Saturday when 12 people died, including a head of department, a medical doctor there, also as a result of a collapse of the supply of oxygen.

The international aid has arrived in large quantities. It's still coming in, of course. It's not clear how it's being distributed by the Indian central government nor have we seen any evidence of it on the ground, but this is a vast country. It's also a country, Ana, that's been starting to increasingly believe, even top doctors here believe that there must be something different about the virus here.

There's no substantial evidence, medical evidence, but, anecdotally, it seems to be infecting at higher rates and perhaps killing at higher rates, although people are, of course, dying because of a lack of oxygen, it doesn't mean that the virus is any worse. But things are certainly not improving yet, Ana.

CABRERA: That's unfortunate. Thank you, Sam Kiley, for that update.

Here to talk more about all of this, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder, she's a CNN Medical Analyst and former adviser for the Biden-Harris Transition COVID Advisory Board. Dr. Gounder, good to see you.

We are on the brink of younger children getting vaccinated here in the U.S., first for 12 to 15-year-olds, as soon as next week, as Elizabeth Cohen reported, 2 to 11-year-olds could be vaccinated as early as September, or at least eligible for vaccinations. What is the impact, do you think, on the race for herd immunity?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Ana, this is really important, because without vaccinating our younger people, our teenagers, in particular, we're really not going to be able to reduce transmission in the community. At the same time, we know we can reopen school safely to in-person learning so long as you have teachers and students masking, ventilation and some of those other measures in place, but this will certainly add another layer of confidence to the reopening of schools.

Finally, I think we really do need to grapple with the ethical situation this poses, which is that we are now vaccinating young people who are at relatively lower risk for severe disease, while you have massive increase in viral transmission, hospitalizations and deaths in places like India. And we find ourselves now in a situation where we have over 60 million doses sitting on shelves unused delivered to states in this country, which we really need to be sharing with the rest of the world as soon as possible.

CABRERA: So let me just follow up with you on that issue real fast, because there is an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. should be doing more to help other countries get their citizens vaccinated. If other countries are lagging in vaccinations, does that threaten the U.S. in some way as well?

GOUNDER: 100 percent. This threatens our recovery, both our recovery from coronavirus, as well as our economic recovery. So long as you have the replication of the virus transmission and replication and mutation of the virus, you will see new variants emerge, just like we did with the U.K. variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S.


It's what has led to many of the surges we've seen, including being partly responsible for the situation in India right now. And then we've also seen new variants emerge in the Indian context.

And our vaccines, at least, for now, remain protective, but if the virus is allowed to continue to mutate, the virus could evade our vaccines and that would set us back tremendously.

CABRERA: Let's talk about vaccine advances because Pfizer has submitted information to the FDA to allow its vaccine to be stored at just standard refrigerator temperatures versus the ultra cold storage we've talked so much about. What's the biggest upside to this change?

GOUNDER: This means that we'll be able to distribute the vaccine much more easily. You don't have to do it out of a big hospital or a pharmacy that has those special ultra-cold refrigerators. It's going to be a lot easier to get the vaccine out to rural areas, to homeless populations, migrant workers, really those hard to reach populations that may not have been reached yet. And not to mention distributing this vaccine around the world where you might be in situations where they have power outages and just don't have that kind of cold temperature capacity.

CABRERA: And as we mentioned, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, all plan to reopen, May 19th. You know, it's been such a piecemeal approach across the country, so I wonder, does that worry you? Does it muddy the message about what's safe, what maybe isn't, what's right now and who people should be listening to?

GOUNDER: Part of the reason this message is so muddy is because the situation is not the same across the country. We still do have about 50,000 new infections per day, but that's not evenly distributed across the country. And, unfortunately, the Tristate area here around New York City is one of those higher transmission places, the risk is higher. Mayor de Blasio had wanted to wait until July 1st to reopen. And so many of us are concerned this is a bit premature.

CABRERA: So just, you know, to really quickly confirm, you're saying you don't support this idea, this reopening by May 19th?

GOUNDER: I do not. We still have a lot of vaccinating to do, especially in the boroughs that were hardest hit in the beginning, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and really we need to be focused on getting those folks vaccinated before we reopen in this fashion.

CABRERA: Dr. Celine Gounder, I always appreciate your perspective and your insights and your expertise. Thanks for being with us.

A new and ominous warning for Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, after she called former President Donald Trump's election lies poison. A senior House Republican telling CNN, quote, Liz is gone, just a question of how and when. Details ahead.



CABRERA: This story is developing fast and furious today. A vote to oust Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her number three spot in the House seems all but certain, and we're learning it could happen as soon as May 12th. This is coming from several senior Republican members and aides with one saying this, quote, Liz is gone, just a question of how and when.

Sources telling CNN Cheney has no intention of stepping aside as House Republican conference chair even as she faces mounting backlash just for speaking out against former President Trump's big lie about the 2020 election. But we are told her refusal to get in line isn't sitting well with many in her party.

Here is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just this morning.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There's no concern about how she voted on impeachment. That 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. 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's our best step forward that we can all work together, instead of attacking one another.


CABRERA: Cheney's team issuing this statement in response, just a short time ago, quoting here, this is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on January 6th. Liz will not do that. That is the issue.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst Harry Enten. Okay, Harry, as one House GOP member put it, she's got less support than she thinks and then added this latest statement saying she's all but gone. Lay it out for us. How much support does Cheney have within her own party?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Very, very little. There was a Quinnipiac University poll that was taken after the impeachment vote in the House a few months ago on Donald Trump, and take a look here. Opinions of Liz Cheney among Republicans, her favorable rating with them, just 7 percent, 7 percent, my goodness, gracious, you know, that's such a low number, the unfavorable, 36 percent.

Look, there are a lot of people out there who don't know who Liz Cheney necessarily is or haven't heard enough about her, but just 7 percent of Republicans with a favorable view, this is the daughter of the former vice president of the United States, a Republican hero, former secretary of defense, and yet just 7 percent. It's an atrocious number, to be perfectly honest with you.

CABRERA: So the majority of Republicans say the party should not accept lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump. Why can't the GOP walk away from Trump?

ENTEN: They can't walk away from Trump because the voters like Trump. These are elected officials. That's what's going on here. They're going back to their homes, their home congressional districts. And what they see is that most Republicans are not accepting of the fact that, you know, there are people like Cheney who are out there who, in fact, had voted to impeach.


I believe it's just 35 percent of them said that they wanted to accept, they were accepting a party official who impeached Trump, 64 percent unaccepting.

Look, I think there's all this question, you know, out there always, is this a pro-Trump party or anti-Trump party? There's no real question, Ana. This is a pro-Trump party. Voters, Republicans want nothing to do with elected officials, GOP-elected officials who voted to impeach Donald Trump. That's just the bottom line.

CABRERA: So this is going to sound redundant, but just to be crystal clear, who represents Republicans right now? Is it Liz Cheney or someone like avowed Trump-supporter Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene?

ENTEN: Yes. I think that this whole question was so interesting to me, because it's one thing if we're asking about Donald Trump, right? We know he has a lot of support among Republicans, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is someone who has floated a ton of debunked conspiracy theories. And yet, when you match up Marjorie Taylor Greene versus Liz Cheney, this Quinnipiac University poll shows you that 23 percent of Republicans actually think that Marjorie Taylor Greene better represents today's GOP versus just 18 percent who say Cheney.

Look, there's 59 percent who say, don't know, but I think that's really quite telling, right? 59 percent of Republicans don't know whether or not a debunked conspiracy theorist best represents their party versus someone like Liz Cheney, who is someone who's been in politics a long time, whose family name is strong, at least historically in Republican politics. I think it really tells you everything you need to know about where the Republican Party is at this particular point.

CABRERA: Wow, wow, wow, wow. Okay. Harry Enten, thank you for breaking it down.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is probably relishing this fight. Her press office releasing this statement titled, GOP leadership, help wanted, non-threatening female, adding GOP leaders want to push Liz Cheney out because, quote, she won't lie, she isn't humble enough, she's like a girlfriend rooting for the wrong team. An apparent nod there to what one member reportedly said about Cheney after she went against Trump on impeachment.

I want to bring in former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. He also served two separate stints in the House before losing the Republican primary in 2018 to candidate backed by Trump. So, thanks for being with us.

First, do you think there's truth to that Pelosi statement I just read about why Republicans are turning on Liz Cheney?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): Well, I mean, yes and no.

CABRERA: Are they threatened by her? Are they threatened by a strong woman?

SANFORD: No. To that part, no, I discard. I mean, there are plenty of strong personalities, male and female, that make up, again, the Congress, and, frankly, a plethora of other offices, whether governorships or down the line as you go into state offices across the country. So I don't buy into that for a second. You know, she happens to take a strong opinion on something that many disagree with, that would agree with --

CABRERA: A strong opinion or is she just saying what is fact?

SANFORD: Well, it's her opinion. I think it's a fact. You think it's a fact. But we could certainly debate that, and I think a lot of people would. I see it as a fact to answer your question.

CABRERA: Well, all the evidence said that is the fact, that the 2020 election was fair, it was legitimate, and Biden won.

SANFORD: I'm not questioning that.

CABRERA: Okay. So let me ask you this, because I wanted to speak to you because you have gone after former President Trump. He's gone after you. What is Liz Cheney going through right now? Can you give us a sense of what that feels like to get piled on by members of your own party?

SANFORD: It's not fun. I feel for her. I mean, there's nothing worse than being a sitting member of Congress and having the president of the United States or a former president of the United States, in her case, come after you. So I feel for her, and I would applaud her stand. It's a lonely stand

but the idea of standing for a principle that one believes in is where our country was founded upon. Whether your view is from the left or from the right, I think we could agree on this idea of noble independence, and saying this is where I stand, this is what I believe, and it's the mark of true leadership.

And so it's not fun. I feel for her, and what comes next, we'll see.

CABRERA: McCarthy says members wanted to replace Cheney because she isn't, quote, carrying out the message of the majority of Republicans. He says, we all need to be working as one. So is he saying the message is the big lie?

SANFORD: No. I mean, he's saying what -- he would say in that post in terms of trying to curry favor and stay relevant, which is we all want to be one big happy family. But we're having an identity crisis as Republicans. We are sort of struggling through where we go next, what we believe, whether Trump is still the standard bearer of what we believe or not, whether the big lie exists or not.


And I think that those are going to take some number of additional months to work our way through.

But I would say this, in fairness to Liz, you know, there's a big difference between not liking somebody with a stand they take and knocking them right out of office.

And so in as much as Cuomo still governor of New York State, I think you're going to see a much stronger stand and much greater political longevity to Liz's stand in that post that meets the eye. Everybody is already digging a grave and saying let's go ahead and bury her, I don't think that's the case. It's a lot easier to dislike somebody than it is to take them out of a post.

CABRERA: Let's just put Cuomo aside here. I don't think it make sense to have him part of this conversation. I mean, let's talk about what's happening within your own party, within the House currently, among Republicans, with McCarthy, Liz Cheney, two members of leadership. I'm wondering, you know, McCarthy has changed his message multiple times, Cheney hasn't, yet she's the one losing support. It kind of sounds like a majority Republicans have picked a side, that there isn't an identity crisis. They're going with the lie.

But why do you think she's losing support and McCarthy who's been all over the place isn't?

SANFORD: No, I'm just saying, and I think this is where the Cuomo comment is relevant, which is a lot of people had already buried Cuomo saying, the guy is gone. Well, he's still in office. And, again, It's a completely different set of circumstances and (INAUDIBLE) completely different situation.

CABRERA: Completely different set. Can you answer my question though about the dynamics --

SANFORD: No, no, no, no. But the issue is longevity. Now, the issue is longevity. She, I think, will still continue to be in that post because you have a divided conference, you don't have a unified conference. Half the folks voted to certify and half the folks didn't in the House. When you actually take that to a vote, then it gets really tricky in terms of trying to knock somebody out, because now you're going to knock out a woman in leadership. I don't buy it.

So time will tell. But --


SANFORD: -- I think we have a divided conference. I happen to be on the side of where Liz and a number of others stand.

CABRERA: So let me come back to what McCarthy said today. He says the problem is Liz Cheney is not carrying out the message. That is the problem. What is the message she's not carrying out?

SANFORD: Well, obviously, what he is intending to say there is, you know, the good things that Republicans stand for and there being unity around those themes, and in as much as you interject --

CABRERA: Which is what?

SANFORD: Trump -- well, it would be, I think Republicans would say they liked what the president did on deregulation or what the party stood for on that. They like what he did --

CABRERA: But Liz Cheney would say, yes, but she likes all of those things too. I don't think Liz Cheney is going against what the policies of the Republican Party have been. She's simply going against the message of who won the election and not standing for this lie that Biden wasn't legitimately elected, the big lie that led to an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. She is just simply stating the truth.

SANFORD: We know both of those things. But the question is politics 101, which is you need a party movement, you want to talk about the things that you want to talk about and the other side is talking about things you don't want to talk about. And, obviously, McCarthy would see some of Liz's conversations, though I agree with her conversations and her stand as extraneous to the core debate of what he wants Republicans to be talking about.

CABRERA: Former Congressman, former Governor Mark Sanford, it was great to have you on. I appreciate getting your perspective. And thanks for the spirited conversation.

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

CABRERA: Headaches, fatigue, hearing loss, mysterious suspected energy attacks are raising serious questions today about who is behind them and whether the CIA mishandled the agency's response.