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12- to 15-Year-Olds Begin Receiving Pfizer Vaccine Today; Prosecutor Will Seek Hate Crime Charges and Death Penalty in Atlanta Spa Shootings; Feds Seeking Cooperation of Ex-Intern, Girlfriend in Gaetz Probe; McCarthy Cites GOP's Big Tent as Defense for Ousting Cheney. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Big day for 12- to 15-year-olds, and their parents, Alisyn. They're getting vaccines a lot of them. The FDA has authorized Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for the age group. Pfizer says that its trial results showed 100 percent efficacy in trial participants.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, I have some questions, Victor. A recent Kaiser Family survey shows that only 30 percent of parents said they would get their adolescent child vaccinated immediately.

Dr. Paul Offit is the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital, Philadelphia and member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee. So he is the perfect person for me to pose my questions to. Doctor Offit, great to see you. So I have as Victor alluded to a 14-year-old son. We already were able to sign him up for a vaccine on Friday. This Friday. Here are my questions.

Will he be getting the same dose that adults get? And are there any kids with any medical issues that should not be getting the vaccine in that age range?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER AT CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, PHILADELPHIA: Well, so the answer to the first question is, yes, it's 30 micrograms per dose with the second dose given three weeks after the first dose. Exactly as was true in the 16- to 17-year- olds, for which this vaccine was already approved.

In terms of other groups that shouldn't get the vaccine, I think the short answer is that anyone who has had a known allergic reaction to a component of that vaccine shouldn't get it.

But you know it would be very rare to have that. There is something called polyethylene glycol that is part of the lipid nano-particle, there are some people and it's very rare that have an allergic reaction to that. I'm sure that's not your son because it would be very rare for that to happen. But for the most part the answer is, no. BLACKWELL: So as expected, as we saw in the broader adult population,

there is some hesitancy among parents of kids 12 to 15. Let's up the Kaiser Family Foundation, their survey where they found that only 30 percent of parents are excited, willing to get it as soon as available for their kids, but more than 40 percent are going to get their kid vaccinated only if required or not at all. What do you tell that 40 percent of parents who are a bit hesitant about getting their child vaccinated?

OFFIT: I find that surprising. I mean finally we can send children can go back to school, in this case the 12- to now 18-year-old can go back to school vaccinated knowing that their protected, knowing that other people in their class are protected.

And the vaccine has been tested in the most recent trial on 2,300 children. Half got the vaccine, half didn't. There were 18 cases of COVID in that trial. All in the placebo group. I'm sure that the parents whose children were in the vaccine group were happy that they were in the vaccine group and those whose children were in the placebo group weren't.

Now you don't have to -- you can take the coin flip out of it, you can choose to get a vaccine. I mean we've been so desperate to get our children back to a normal life, whether it's sports camp or school or other camps and now you have the chance to do that. I just don't understand the hesitancy.

CAMEROTA: OK, so Victor and I asked on our Twitter accounts and other social media for some questions for you specifically, so people wrote in. Here's one this comes from Juan Abbas. He asks, do kids get severe symptoms after getting the vaccine if they have suppressed immunity or diseases like diabetes?

OFFIT: So what's interesting about this vaccine is that even if you don't have an immune system, the vaccine is safe. I mean, the so- called messenger RNA vaccine enters your cell, it makes a protein, in this case the SARS COV-2 surface protein for a few days and then breaks down. So even if you don't have an immune system, it's safe.

It is true that children generally develop a brisker immune response than do adults. And if you look this sort of the side effects associated with vaccine in older people, you're much likely to have side effects if you're less than 65 than older than 55 -- I'm sorry older than 65.

And here you have young children who make brisk immune systems. I wouldn't be surprised if you had a day or two after getting the vaccine you would have fatigue, headache, fever, joint pain, muscle pain, but that's just a product of your immune system. And that's a good thing. It shows you that the child is briskly responding.

But children who have for example diabetes or heart disease or lung disease, I mean those are the kids who especially should get this vaccine to protect them against disease which can be serious.

BLACKWELL: OK, so those are short-term side effects. Let's go for a broader question here from another parent. Should parents be concerned about any unknown long-term side effects since teen bodies are still developing? And what if your child has food allergies in regard to any vaccine ingredients?

OFFIT: Right, so food allergies are not a contraindication to getting the vaccine. If you have had a severe food or medicine allergy where you had severe anaphylaxis meaning a severe hypersensitivity reaction then you should wait in the site where you've gotten the vaccine for about 30 minutes in case you have an allergic response here. But, otherwise, no, I mean it's a remarkably safe vaccine.


So I think that food allergies are not a contraindication to getting this vaccine.

In terms of long-term side effects, there has never been -- although vaccines can have serious side effects, vaccines can occasionally have fatal side effects. But when they've occurred historically in the last 200 years that we've given vaccines, they will always occur within six weeks of the dose.

So I think in terms of the long term something you see 10 or 20 or 30 years later, there is no example of that. That's never happened. That's why the FDA draws the line at two months. We have to wait till two months after the last dose to make sure that the vaccine doesn't have a side effect. But beyond that, there's never been such a problem.

CAMEROTA: And Dr. Offit, we also want to ask you about what happened with the CDC. And that they're getting a lot of pushback from some in Congress about their latest guidance. So in particular, Senator Susan Collins, she said that she doesn't trust anything that the CDC says. She posed this directly to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director. She said that the guidance about outdoor transmission, the CDC in Susan Collins' estimation appears to be getting it wrong. There are not many known cases of casual outdoor transmission of COVID-19. What are your thoughts.

OFFIT: It's true. The outdoor transmission is probably less than 1 percent, that is true. But you know something, it's not fair I think for Susan Collins to say something like, I don't trust the CDC anymore. We're learning as we go with this virus. We're learning as we go with this vaccine. People try and make their best efforts.

I mean it's the nature of science that as you get more data, you know, you can revise your recommendations. I'm sure that Congress people don't always get it right all the time either.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Paul Offit, thanks so much. I love it when we take questions from our viewers, from our followers and take them right to the experts. You get exactly what you came for. Thank you, doctor.

OFFIT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, doc.

OK so we're following breaking news out of Georgia. The prosecutor for the Atlanta spa mass shooting will charge the suspect with hate crimes. We have much more on this next.



CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news. The suspect in the Atlanta spa shootings has been indicted on murder charges. That mass shooting you'll remember left eight people dead in March.

BLACKWELL: Well, now the Fulton County District Attorney says that she plans to seek the death penalty and enhanced hate crime charges.

CNN's Amara Walker has been following this tragedy from the very first day. What have you learned?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alisyn, yes, two major developments to talk about. As you mentioned, a grand jury in Fulton County has indicted 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long on murder charges. He faces a total of 19 counts, 4 of which are malice murder charges and 4 counts of felony murder. This is for the spa shootings, the two spots that were hit up back in March where four Asian women were killed at two different spas in the city of Atlanta.

The other development, as you mentioned, the district attorney in Fulton County, Fani Willis, has filed a notice in court and she says she intends to pursue hate crime charges on the basis of race and gender against Robert Aaron Long and also intends to seek the death penalty.

As you know the Asian-American community, many within the Asian- American community have been watching this case very closely, especially with bated breath as they have been pushing for hate crime charges to follow.

I actually just a few moments ago got a comment from Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen, who is also Asian-American. And she said this to be, quote, I am relieved that this will be treated as hate crime to acknowledge that the victims were targeted because of their race is the necessary measure that will help Asians living in this country feel seen and heard and that this decision also recognizes that we cannot divorce gender from race.

Now, I do want to mention Cherokee County. It's unclear what Cherokee County prosecutors are going to do. We know that there will be a separate grand jury that will decide whether or not to indict Robert Aaron Long.

And lastly, I do want to mention, this is notable. This is the first time to our knowledge that this new Georgia hate crime law has been applied in a case. And that was passed last year. Alisyn, Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Amara Walker for us there in Atlanta, Amara, thank you.

CAMEROTA: We also have new developments in the case against Congressman Matt Gaetz. The feds looking for cooperation from two key witnesses, including a former Capitol Hill intern.



BLACKWELL: There are new details in the criminal sex trafficking investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. CNN has learned the prosecution team is now seeking cooperation from two key witnesses. One of whom is a former Capitol Hill intern and the ex- girlfriend of the Florida Congressman.

CAMEROTA: CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger helped break the story. She joins us now. Gloria, I do want to hear your reporting, but first, remember when Republicans didn't like politicians who had sex with interns?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to remember but, yes, I do. I do remember that. And as you point out, by implication, they are being really silent about Matt Gaetz. We know that he has not yet been charged with anything.

But what we do know from our reporting is that it seems that they are nearing the end of their investigation, that they have one witness, the former tax collector in Florida, good friend of Matt Gaetz's who may cut a deal. And they have this woman who could also potentially cooperate with them.

We know they have a lot of documentary evidence. It's always good to have cooperating witnesses. So, it makes my colleague, Paula Reed and I reported this, it makes us feel as if, perhaps, they're nearing the conclusion of their investigation before they decide whether to charge Matt Gaetz.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's turn to Congresswoman Liz Cheney who could be out of conference leadership by this time tomorrow. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote a letter to his colleagues explaining his position, the way forward.

And here's part of it, the irony.

We are a big tent party. We represent Americans of all backgrounds and continue to grow our movement by the day, and unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.

And he uses this in his letter to explain why Liz Cheney should be out.

BORGER: Yes, that is something, isn't it?


The other word that kind of struck me was movement. Our movement, and I guess my question would be what is the movement you're talking about? Is it a conservative movement in which you replace Liz Cheney, a true conservative with a more moderate Republican? Is it a movement that just reflects the politics of Donald Trump? Is it a movement that just wants to be anti-Joe Biden whatever he does?

It's sort of unclear to me at this point what that movement would be in the Republican Party other than to win more seats so that McCarthy can become Speaker of the House after the next election.

CAMEROTA: And Gloria, I'm sorry to be stuck on this. But --


CAMEROTA: But sideline Liz Cheney.

BORGER: Right.

CAMEROTA: Of the Cheney family and keep Matt Gaetz in the big tent who is, as you point out, now the subject of an investigation. I mean, a Jeffrey Epstein-style investigation, no charges, but an investigation and calling his ex-girlfriend an intern, a Capitol Hill intern. That person they have a big enough tent for.

BORGER: Yes, I think so much. I think so, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Big enough tent, I mean she's caused them a lot of headaches, she's caused them a lot of problems. I'm sure Kevin McCarthy has sat down with Matt Gaetz. But if he told him to stop talking, that wasn't listened to. You saw that Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene had a rally over the weekend last Friday.

I think that what Kevin McCarthy is focused on is power. It's not about accountability. It's not about democracy. It's not about what the Republican Party will stand for in the future other than being right now in this moment anti-Biden and pro-Donald Trump. That is it.

It is a short-term view of the future of the party, and I'm not the one saying this. I mean, look at Republicans saying it like Mitt Romney. I know they will say he's a Republican in name only. But serious Republicans who have represented the party in the past are saying you are being short-sighted, Kevin McCarthy. You have to think about more than your own political future, and I don't think that's being listened to.

BLACKWELL: And there's pushback now to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik taking over this role.


BLACKWELL: Because there's this letter that's been written by Congressman Chip Roy, head of the Freedom Caucus, where he says, with all due respect to my friend Elise Stefanik, let's contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass kicking we received by Democrats.

BORGER: He has a point. BLACKWELL: So she's not conservative enough in many respects for the Conference.

BORGER: It's the old adage, be careful what you wish for. Well, here you are. You've got your wish. You're kicking out Liz Cheney and Chip Roy has a point. Which is we're kicking out Liz Cheney and we're replacing her with a more moderate politician just because by the way, she's been anointed by Donald Trump. Yes, Donald Trump likes her. She defended him during impeachment, so, sure, why not put her in there. What does that have to do with conservatism?

What does that have to do with what people actually believe if they believe anything anymore? Absolutely nothing, and I think Roy is pointing this out, and we'll see what the -- what the tally is, if it's not a voice vote, and a secret ballot. We'll see what the tally is tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: Gloria Borger, thanks for all the reporting. Great to talk to you.

BORGER: Thanks. Sure.

CAMEROTA: Be sure to join Fareed Zakaria for an in-depth look at the changing Republican Party. How did it become what it is today? "A RADICAL REBELLION, the transformation of the GOP," begins Sunday at 8:00 p.m.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, the aftermath of that ransomware attack on U.S. gas company. Nervous drivers scrambling to fill up their tanks, and now there's a concern about a new crisis.



CAMEROTA: OK, Georgia just declaring a state of emergency because of gas shortages related to that cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. reports that some gas stations from Florida to Virginia are out of fuel and drivers in the Southeast are seeing a lot of long lines at the pumps.

BLACKWELL: Wow, look at that video. AAA reported the national price is the highest in more than six years at just under $3 a gallon. The EPA also steps in and issuing emergency fuel waivers in states impacted by the pipeline attack.

Georgia governor also suspended the gas tax to help drivers out. Same thing happening in South Carolina, North Carolina as we've had the breaking news all afternoon, Alisyn. I've been watching my email and the alerts coming in state after state on the East Coast with these price gouging laws in effect as well.

CAMEROTA: Is your tank full right now, Victor?

BLACKWELL: I've got about a quarter tank. I thought about it last night and then I just drove home. That was a mistake. How about yours? CAMEROTA: Yes, I'm OK right now. But I mean, I think they are chalking

it up to some panic buying. I mean you know we know this phenomenon. This why I have stacks and stacks of toilet paper in my basement right now. That also didn't really need to happen, but this seems even more dire.

BLACKWELL: Well we - I expect to hear more some time from Colonial Pipeline soon. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.