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Biden Administration Now Favors Waiving Vaccine Patents; India's Covid Crisis Impacts Vaccine Deliveries to Africa; U.S. Aims to Make It Easier for Americans to Get Vaccines; Liz Cheney Steadfast in Criticism of Trump's Lies; Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Trump's Suspension; Ukrainian Foreign Minister Talks to CNN About Investigation into Giuliani. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 6, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: The Biden administration says it supports easing patent protections that would make more doses of COVID vaccines available worldwide, but the decision is pitting the White House against big pharma.

Also, Liz Cheney's message to her party. History is watching. As she faces being ousted from the Republican House leadership.

And the number of unruly air passengers is skyrocketing. There have been 1,300 complaints in the past three months and the FAA is planning to hand out some big fines.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

The World Trade Organization is meeting today to discuss whether patent protections should be waived and whether nations everywhere should be allowed to make their own generic versions of the drugs. A W.T.O. decision to waive those trade rules has to be unanimous. And one crucial holdout has been the U.S. But on Wednesday, the Biden administration finally said it would support the waivers. U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai explained why in a statement.

The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections but in service of ending this pandemic supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

But vaccine makers are against giving away their patents. The head of America's pharmaceutical trade group said waivers will lead to chaos. This decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.

Now despite those concerns, U.S. health officials say the decision to support waivers was ultimately a humanitarian one. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: There was a statement that put people over patents. It was about leading in the world and helping producing what the world needed at a time of unprecedented crisis. It's a country that my parents dreamt of before they moved to the United States. The country I feel blessed to serve as surgeon general. And if we stick together, if we work together, if we help work and collaborate with countries around the world, I do believe we will turn this pandemic around.


BRUNHUBER: So while U.S. support for waivers is important, it doesn't mean anything will happen right away. Negotiations of the W.T.O. will likely take weeks or months to fine tune the rules. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the details.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration has now come out in favor of waiving those intellectual property rights when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines. This is something that had been under debate of what their formal position was going to be over the last several days. As you were really seeing pressure start to build on the administration for waiving those property rights. Because they, of course, want companies and countries to be able to mass produce these vaccines given what we are seeing happen in places like India and Brazil and other countries that area they are struggling with coronavirus infections or have not yet ramped up their vaccination rates.

And so this still has to go through a W.T.O. process and President Biden's trade rep Katherine Tai acknowledged that in her statement. But she also talked about the extraordinary circumstances saying that they do respect intellectual property rights but also they recognize that we're in a pandemic and it's important to get as many people vaccinated right now as possible. And so that is where their position is. It seemed like where they were going to go since President Biden did say summer he would commit to sharing vaccines, waiving patents so we can make sure the world was getting vaccinated if the U.S. was one of the first countries to develop the vaccine.

But, of course, the question of how this plays out and whether or not it actually helps these countries in the near future is something that remains to be seen. They have not figured that out yet. And of course, White House officials say that it could be that it's easier to share vaccines. Maybe sell them at cost. So how those companies decide to navigate this remains to be seen.


We know this is a decision the pharmaceutical industry did not want to see. They did not want these property rights waived but the administration says it's a pandemic and so they had to do it.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Now waiving international patent protections is just one of several proposals to meet the global demand for vaccines. But whatever path is chosen, the top U.S. infectious disease specialist says there's a moral imperative to act quickly. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe we have a moral obligation, Steve, to make sure that the rest of the world does not suffer and die as it were from something that we can help them with and help to prevent. We've got to get to the end game. And the end game is the equitable distribution of vaccines. So however we get there, it's fine with me. We just need to get there.


BRUNHUBER: India's COVID crisis is having a domino effect on countries in Africa. The Indian government has suspended the export of vaccine doses and that coupled with a slow rollout in vaccine hesitancy means some African countries are being left very vulnerable. And South Africa's foreign minister says the global community must suspend COVID vaccine patents in order to end the pandemic. Our David McKenzie joins me now from Johannesburg. David, South Africa was one of the driving forces behind pushing the U.S. and other countries to lift the vaccine patent protections. What kind of difference could it make?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it could make a difference in the medium term, Kim. It was South Africa and India that originally proposed this temporary waiver of the patent. So at the point of whether the W.T.O. actually -- members actually agree unanimously to do this, we are still looking at several months down the line. And then you'd have to up the manufacturing capacity.

But there's an immediate crisis looming amongst several African countries because they use the doses that they received from COVAX, the global vaccine alliance very efficiently, particularly in Kenya. And now the second doses that they were promised are not arriving. We spoke to a senior humanitarian official who said while it's been publicly announced that March and April that Indians serum institute won't be able to export vaccines because of the crisis there because they need to help their own population. They say well May as well, possibly June, and we don't even know about July yet.

So that shows a much more serious scenario that vaccines might not be flowing to poorer countries. I spoke to the head of the vaccine task force in Kenya. He says that solidarity is needed now.


DR. WILLIS AKHWALE, CHAIRMAN VACCINE TASKFORCE KENYA: When you start hearing certain populations are getting vaccines and you are not, yes, the feeling of kind of discrimination in the process. So for me, I am hoping that the global community comes together, looks at this as really a global effort. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE (on camera): 80 percent of the vaccines given out at this point roughly have been given in rich and high middle income countries, Kim. So that means that you really look at a scenario that some parts of the world will be moving on pretty effectively from this in the coming months. But many parts of the world will be stuck in a cycle of wave after wave of COVID-19.

Now there is one other solution to the immediate need of countries like Kenya, Botswana and others that have been very efficient in giving their first doses, and that's for rich countries to donate their extra doses, particularly of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There are moves to do that. But activists and advocates say that needs to happen a lot quicker, otherwise people will feel they've been let down very badly in this.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, let's hope they get the help they need one way or another. David McKenzie in Johannesburg, thanks so much.

Now there is some good news on the COVID-19 vaccine front. Moderna says a booster shot of its vaccine ramps up the immune response against two warring virus variants, the one first seen in South Africa and the one in Brazil. And a report from Pfizer shows it can protect against variants, including the one first seen in the U.K. Vaccine makers are trying to get out ahead of these variants before they spread even further. The design of the new mRNA vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer make that goal easier since the genetic sequences can be tweaked in a lab.

So the vaccines are working as planned, but the key is still to have as many people take them as possible, obviously, which is why President Biden is setting another big vaccination goal to try and pick up the pace.


As Amara Walker reports, his strategy is to keep it simple.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: We're going to make it as easy as possible.

FAUCI: Making it easy.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A shift in vaccine strategy making it even easier to get a shot in the hopes of meeting President Biden's new pledge to get at least one shot into the arms of 70 percent of American adults and 160 million fully vaccinated by July 4th.

SLAVITT: That amounts to approximately 100 million shots over the next two months. ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: That

amounts to approximately 100 million shots over the next two months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a stretched goal, but it's an achievable goal.

WALKER (voice over): The plan includes focusing on smaller community vaccination sites.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: And really putting in walk-in capabilities in 40,000 or so pharmacies throughout the country, getting mobile units going.

WALKER (voice over): CVS and Walgreens are now offering walk-in shots, no appointment needed.

And CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky tells CNN, 12- to 15-year-olds could be getting vaccinated against the coronavirus in less than two weeks.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The vaccine is already in these pharmacies at the dose that we need. And so soon after ACIP, I think you'd be able to take your 14-year-olds and bring them in to get vaccinated.

WALKER (voice over): As summer approaches, the CDC is recommending that children and staff at summer camps wear masks except when eating and swimming. Also maintaining social distancing, all while outdoors. But the guidance is getting mixed reaction.

WALENSKY: If people are playing tennis and they're far away, we can say that their masks can come off. But if they're crowded on a soccer field, they're on top of each other, they're heavily breathing, we don't think really think that's a good idea right now.

FAUCI: It looks a bit strict, a bit stringent, but that's the reason why they keep looking at that and trying to, you know, re-evaluate, literally in real time.

WALKER (voice over): Daily new infections have dropped 12 percent in the past week, but the average daily rate of vaccinations has been declining too. Under 1 million doses administered for the first time since March. Right now 32 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: If we're going to significantly slow the spread of this virus, I think we're going to need ultimately to be around 80 percent plus population immunity.

WALKER (voice-over): Walensky warning we could see another surge this winter.

Walensky: I think we have to be humbled with this virus. I think we have variants ahead of us. We have, you know, not full immunity in this population yet. So I think anything is possible.

WALKER: In the meantime, some states and cities are planning or beginning to fully reopen. And that include Los Angeles and San Francisco. Beginning on Thursday, they will allow most businesses to resume indoor operations. Also, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut will be lifting capacity restrictions, including in restaurants, gyms, retail and even on Broadway. Also, Chicago's mayor is saying that her goal is to fully reopen the city by the fourth of July.

In Dekalb County, Georgia, Amara Walker, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Republican representative Liz Cheney says her party is at a turning point. Cheney is an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump and his lies about fraud in the presidential election. In an op-ed in "The Washington Post," Cheney wrote --

Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work. Confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and the Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.

Now Cheney's opinions come at a price. Trump loyalists are campaigning to oust her as the third ranking Republican in the U.S. House. Ryan Nobles has more on a party divided.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump is tightening his grip on the Republican Party.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You were killing them, Elise. You were killing them.

NOBLES (voice-over): Trump, who learned Wednesday that he would not be allowed back on Facebook, is still finding ways to exert his influence, putting his full support behind New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to replace Wyoming's Liz Cheney as the number three ranking House Republican: "Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice and she has my complete and total endorsement for GOP Conference chair."

Cheney's rapid demise is a sign of the direction of the Republican Party, a party that is increasingly devoted to Trump and ready to dump any Republican unwilling to support Trump's big lie that he actually won the 2020 election.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I have had it with her. It's you know, I've lost confidence.

NOBLES (voice-over): While, up until now, Republicans like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed their doubts about Cheney privately, many are now going public, GOP Whip Steve Scalise offering up an endorsement of Stefanik. And Stefanik herself, who'd been working behind the scenes, tweeted her plans to challenge Cheney with Trump's support. Even Cheney is resigned to her fate. Unlike the last time her

leadership position was challenged, she has decided not to phone colleagues to plead her case.


She will not resign but is ready to shift her focus to a broader goal, the fight for the soul of the GOP. Even prominent Republicans who in the past supported Cheney are not rushing to her defense.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.

NOBLES (voice-over): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to offer any support to Cheney, this while McConnell himself is still facing Trump's wrath.

Despite his ongoing social media ban, the former president launching a new website, where he's airing his grievances and putting McConnell in the same group with Cheney and his former vice president, Mike Pence, Trump calling McConnell gutless and clueless and attacking Pence for certifying the 2020 election in Congress.

Trump making it clear that the number one criteria for his support is defending his big lie, something Elise Stefanik has had no problem doing.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election featured unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws.


BRUNHUBER: That was Ryan Nobles reporting from Washington.

Facebook is giving President Biden's predecessor another big thumbs down. The social network's oversight board decided that Facebook can keep blocking Donald Trump from using the platform. The board says Trump's posts surrounding the Capitol riot on January 6th severely violated Facebook's policies and created a potentially violent environment.

But the board did scold Facebook for making the suspension indefinite and says it should either ban him for a specific amount of time or disable the account. The decision will be revisited in six months. It also applies to Trump's account on Instagram which Facebook owns. The former president has almost 60 million followers across both platforms.

Despite the ongoing suspension, plenty of Trump's talking points are still being posted. Chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has details on that and the Facebook board's decision.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is something of a surprise. It's kicking it right back to Mark Zuckerberg who now has six months to come up with an answers. This board is recommending that Facebook be much more clear about its rules and its regulations. What it takes to get banned from the platform. They say a permanent ban is inappropriate.

They also -- and this is important -- they want Facebook to have a real examination of how its platform was used and weaponized by the rioters. How its platform was used to spread the big lie. So far, Facebook's not been very forthcoming about how its tools were used to spread these lies.

Trump's grip on the party has not been weakened due to these suspensions, but his virality has. Trump's own messages are not going as viral, they're not spreading as widely. They may not be bringing in new fans. However, right-wing narratives, anti-Democrat narratives, pro-Trump narratives do find a lot of support on Facebook and that's critical to understand. Whenever you hear folks complaining about censorship, the allegations on Fox every hour about conservative censorship, well that's belied by the fact that these right-wing commentators are among the most popular figures on the platform.


BRUNHUBER: As the U.S. Secretary of State sits down with top officials in Kiev, CNN has an exclusive interview with the Ukrainian foreign minister. We'll tell you what he's saying about the Biden administration, next. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: America's top diplomat is reaffirming U.S. support for Ukraine ahead of his sit-down with President Vladimir Zelensky. That came as Antony Blinken met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kiev. In his remarks, Blinken said the U.S. is committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and independence. The one-day visit comes as Ukraine faces ongoing Russian aggression and a military build-up at the border. Before the foreign minister sat down with the U.S. Secretary of State, he talked to CNN's Matthew Chance in an exclusive interview.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ahead of the secretary of state's visit his Ukrainian counterpart who's putting his best fists forward. There are uncomfortable issues in the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship like the activities in Ukraine that Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump's personal lawyer ahead of the 2020 U.S. election -- issues Ukrainian officials would prefer to ignore.

CHANCE: Do you believe he may have been engaged in criminal behavior?

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I'm not a lawyer to make my judgment on the criminal nature of his behavior or the --

CHANCE: How would you characterize it? KULEBA: -- or the absence but he was definitely playing politics, and he put the situation at risk for Ukraine. And for Ukraine's relationship with United States. And we did our best to avoid that trap and to maintain that bipartisan security with bipartisan support from the United States.

CHANCE (voice over): But Ukraine is again under withering scrutiny with the FBI investigating the former New York City mayor with alleged actions regarding Ukraine.

CHANCE: Can you tell us has the FBI or any other investigating agency in the United States approached Ukraine for assistance with that investigation into Rudy Giuliani?

KULEBA: Not to the best of my knowledge, I'm not aware of any formal legal process that has been initiated, recently.

CHANCE (voice over): Even if there was, Ukraine has for years desperately avoided being drawn into the toxic U.S. political battle.

In fact, as the U.S. Secretary of State pays his first visit here, Ukrainian officials want their own battles to be the focus, especially with a Russian armada assembling off their eastern seaboard. The Kremlin insists they're naval drills posing no threat.


CNN has learned Ukraine has a shopping list of weapons it wants from Washington, including air defense stems and anti-sniper tech. Crucial say officials, with so many Ukrainian troops being gunned down on these front lines. The question is, will Secretary Blinken and President Biden, who says he wants to find a stable path with Russia offering Putin a summit later this year summit, risk inflaming Russia- Ukraine tensions.

CHANCE: In the Obama administration when Biden was the vice president they didn't even provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia. What do you think's changed? Has anything changed?

KULEBA: My impression is that the Obama administration is about the past and Biden administration is about today. And this administration is more committed, and more result -- more resolute in containing Russia.

CHANCE (voice over): How far that U.S. resolve extends in Ukraine will soon be put to the test.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kiev.


BRUNHUBER: India is reporting its worst numbers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We're live in Delhi right after the break with a look at why researchers warn the misery is going to get even worse.

And life in prison. That's the sentence for two American students convicted of murdering a police officer in Italy. We're live in Rome with the latest. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. now says it supports relaxing international trade rules.