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CDC Advisers Recommend Pfizer Vaccine for Kids 12 to 15; Education Secretary Says No Reason to Wait Until Fall to Send Students Back to School; Pressure Mounts for CDC to Change Guidelines for Vaccinated People; Grocer Says Prices Are Even Higher Now Than Before the Pandemic; Dow Falls More Than 600 Points on Inflation Fear; Houston Police Capture Murder Suspect and Pet Tiger Is Missing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 12, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: A CDC advisory committee has just recommended the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. And as vaccine hesitancy remains a concern, public health officials are working on a plan to tweak their messaging in hopes of convincing both patients and patients to get on board.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Dr. Stephen Thomas is the chief of infectious disease at Upstate University Hospital. Dr. Thomas, thanks for being with us. Let's start with the breaking news. The significance of this recommendation from the CDC panel.

DR. STEPHEN THOMAS, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE, UPSTATE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Yes, thanks for having me. I do think it's very significant for a couple reasons. I mean the first is that even though it doesn't occur as often as adults, kids still do get sick, and kids unfortunately die from COVID. So there's a direct benefit of vaccination to the kids.

The second thing is they could still transmit to people that are at higher risk than themselves. And then the third, and I think it's very important, is the devastating secondary effects of COVID as it relates to in-person learning and the impact that it has had on kids academically and their total health and wellness, I think this is all very good news that a vaccine can be made available to them.

CAMEROTA: And so what do you say to parents who today say, you know, it's just come out. The CDC has just approved it. It's still Emergency Use Authorization. I don't want to be first out of the gate. I'm feeling nervous.

THOMAS: I mean, the first thing I would say is, you know, I understand. The second thing I would say is, you know, we're in the middle of a pandemic. No one feels like the life that we have now in terms of its normalcy is acceptable to anyone. And the most direct path back to normal and getting kids back in school and back on the -- in the gym and on the playing field and on the stage is through vaccination.

The other thing I would say is that, you know, at least at it related to Pfizer vaccine, globally this vaccine has been safely administered to well over 200 million people and it's shown itself to be safe and highly, highly efficacious.

In the 12 to 15-year-olds there were no cases of COVID in the vaccine group compared to the placebo group. And it was as safe as the other groups that we've tested the vaccine. And so, that's where I would start.

BLACKWELL: I'm glad you brought up getting back to school because that's for most parents that's what this vaccination news means. But listen to the secretary of education this morning on CNN.


MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The call has been there since we know students can come to school safely. And that's where they deserve to be. Every day that passes is a wasted opportunity.

What we're finding, our data is showing that there are disproportionate access to school, which is further widening gaps in opportunity and achievement for our students. So we have to act with urgency. Even two to three weeks being with your classmates, being with your teacher helps students be prepared for not only summer learning experiences but the fall. There's no reason to wait any longer.


BLACKWELL: So short of mass vaccinations -- we know there's some hesitancy --should students be going back into the classroom now?


THOMAS: You know, again, even without vaccination, I have always believed that school is not a source of frequent transmission. With the public health interventions we have specifically don't come to school if you're sick, wear a mask when you're in school, get tested if you become sick, wash your hands, we know that schools have been a safe place for people to learn.

Now you add on top of that, mass vaccination then I think the kids need to get back to in-person learning.

CAMEROTA: And we've been hearing some pushback from governors to our own doctors that we rely on, our experts that the CDC needs to be more clear about their guidelines and it's time to loosen some of their restrictions.

I mean just on a call with President Biden, the Utah governor said, states need helper persuading their populations to get vaccinated and the way that could work is if the CDC gave them some, you know, incentive to get vaccinated. You can all take off your masks outside, something like that. Do you think it's time for the CDC to rethink their messaging?

THOMAS: So you know, the CDC and any group that makes a public health policy, they need to follow the science and they need to follow the data. And when either the science or the data changes, that means policy can change.

And you know, I actually think the CDC has been doing this and, you know, over the last couple of weeks they've been walking back some of the restrictions that had been previously in place when cases were on the increase and when vaccination rates were not what we wanted them to be.

So I do feel it's time to relook at the vaccine story. Which has basically said, regardless of the population that this is being put into, it is safe, and it is highly effective. It reduces the risk of people getting COVID. It also reduces their risk of if they do get infected of passing it onto someone else.

And so, I'll be honest, I do expect the CDC to be rolling back some of these recommendations in the near future. And you know, as it relates to -- we already know that when you're outside, your risk of getting COVID is significantly less than if you're inside. Again, you add on top of that vaccination, then I absolutely believe that in most outdoor environments, vaccinated people can remove their masks.

CAMEROTA: That will certainly be music to the ears of many people. Dr. Stephen Thomas, thank you very much.

THOMAS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, you've probably noticed while checking out the supermarket that food prices are on the rise and experts warn they could be here to stay. We tell you why, next.



BLACKWELL: So if you've been to the supermarket recently, you know it's costing more to buy just the basic items to feed your family. Food prices are rising in a lot of parts of the country.

A New York grocery chain reporting prices in spikes of meat and chicken and produce and seafood. In April consumer prices rose at a rate not seen since 2008, that's according to the Consumer Price Index report released today.

Let's bring in now CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. Vanessa, so explain to everyone what's causing this price increase and what is seeing the biggest jumps?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and as you mentioned, just about every American consumer product is up right now in price, including food, specifically produce.

Here at Morton Williams in New York City, they are seeing a lot of price increases including lettuce, boxes of lettuce they used to buy for about $20 a box now they're buying for about $30 a box. Also filet mignon they were buying for $11 a pound, now they're buying for $17 a pound.

Also strawberries, they are buying for $5 to $6 a basket, right here, and this is about double what it was last year. And each of these prices are getting passed down to the consumer. You ask why this is happening? Listen to what the meat and seafood director said here at Morton Williams.


VICTOR COLELLO, MEAT AND SEAFOOD DIRECTOR, MORTON WILLIAMS SUPERMARKET: Prices are even higher now than they were before the pandemic started. The reason why because everything is starting to open up.

Now the restaurants are opening up, the airlines are opening up and so are the cruise lines are opening up. So that's like a catch-up effect, a triple effect that goes across the whole industry.


YURKEVICH (on camera): Another reason is gas prices. That means that the trucks that are bringing the food into the stores are more expensive. Also labor shortages in manufacturing that we've been hearing about. The big question everyone wants to know, how long will this go on? The folks here at Morton Williams say they don't expect these prices to remain high forever, but they don't see them coming down any time soon. Because they are waiting for the supply to catch up with all of this demand that we're seeing -- Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Vanessa Yurkevich for us there. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Also right now we have some breaking news. The Dow, Victor, is down by more than 600 points because of fears of rising inflation. CNN's Alison Kosik joins us live now from New York with more. What's happening, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Alisyn, yes, what you're seeing is in sort of the final 20 minutes of the trading day. That selling really picking up. We have seen the market kind of tank all day, especially with tech shares getting hit the hardest.

Why is this happening? It has everything to do with what Vanessa was talking about, that is inflation. Today we got a new inflation rating called CPI, and it showed that inflation actually higher prices moved at their fastest pace since 2008. We're talking about through the month of April.

We've all known that prices are going up, but when data comes out, it kind of puts the exclamation point on what's happening.


And for investors, it's been this a-ha moment. So that is why you're seeing this selling now. You're seeing the selling because if inflation continues for companies, the fear is that that inflation can impact margins. It can squeeze them, and it can erode corporate profits. So it could eat into, obviously, corporate profits and then into stock prices.

And if inflation continues as well, the concern is that the Fed will go ahead and have to raise interest rates earlier than expected, and that is making investors very nervous -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Alison Kosik, thank you very much for explaining all of that. I know you'll be keeping an eye on it for us.

OK, now to this crazy story. In Houston, Texas, officials are still searching for that Bengal tiger that has been on the loose since Sunday. We have the details ahead. Where is that tiger?

BLACKWELL: Where is the cat?



CAMEROTA: This story is nuts.


CAMEROTA: OK. In Houston, police are still looking for that Bengal tiger on the loose. Now on Sunday, the people in a west Houston neighborhood called police to report seeing a tiger in someone's front yard, OK. And then the police arrived and then a man who happened to be a murder suspect out on bond loaded that tiger in his SUV and made a run for it.

BLACKWELL: Now police caught him and arrested him the next day, but they can't find this tiger.

CNN's Rosa Flores is watching this one. So many questions here, Rosa. It has been three days. Tell us about this search for this Bengal tiger.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, according to HPD which is the investigating organization here, they are searching for this tiger in a sense as an investigation.

There is no one, and we have no reason to believe that there is an outright search street to street for this tiger, because like you said, the last time that this tiger was seen was in the back of an SUV, and according to police it was 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas who was driving that SUV and he was fleeing from police. Now, that was Sunday, like you mentioned Cuevas was arrested, but this tiger has not been located yet. So this is an ongoing investigation here in the city of Houston.

But I should add that this is not the only exotic animal that Houston Police Department is investigating. According to the commander Ron Borza, they've been trying to locate some bear cubs since last year, and back in 2019, they did find in an abandoned house inside a cage, a pet tiger that right now is living in a sanctuary that's north from here in an area southeast of Dallas and the name of the sanctuary is Black Beauty Ranch.

So Victor and Alisyn, it's important to note that this is an investigation, but we have no indication based on the reporting that this tiger is roaming anywhere in the streets of Houston or in some of the neighborhoods. And so the police are investigating, they're following the leads, they're trying to find who is keeping this tiger at this point in time.

CAMEROTA: Rosa, what do we know about Cuevas, the suspect? I mean was this his tiger?

FLORES: You know, I talked to his attorney, and he is adamant that this tiger does not belong to Cuevas. He does say that the name of the tiger is India, and that it is a 9-month-old Bengal tiger. But looking into Cuevas, and just by looking at some of these court documents, he is sitting in a Fort Bend County jail right on $50,000 bond because evading police is a felony here in Harris County, in the city of Houston.

Actually just having a tiger with you is a misdemeanor, so he is in trouble actually because he evaded the police with the tiger, that's why he is in jail. Once we started looking into his past through court documents, we found that he was out already on bond on two separate cases, one out of Fort Bend County for murder and another out of Austin County for evading police.

So at this point, his attorney says that the problem right now is because he was found -- because he was with the tiger, because he was seen with the tiger and evading the police. But again, the Houston Police Department still investigating this, trying to find this tiger.

And Victor and Alisyn, as you mentioned there has been not just national but international attention is what we hear from the Houston Police Department of just so many news organizations asking about this particular story.

CAMEROTA: Right. Rosa Flores, thank you very much for all of that reporting, because, Victor, where's the tiger?

BLACKWELL: I mean, the idea that he is -- he has the tiger, and then his attorney says that he doesn't know that cat. That is not his tiger. I mean, there's so many layers to this.

CAMEROTA: By the way, I also am reading that that same suspect is also keeping two monkeys. So his tiger story is not washing with some people.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it isn't. It isn't. And everybody knows that you can't have two monkeys and a tiger, that would be crazy.

CAMEROTA: No, yes.

BLACKWELL: All right. Some members of the Republican Party are revising history of what happened January 6th on Capitol Hill, and some defending those rioters, and you are going to hear from them next.




REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): At 2:07, a mob of Trump supporters breached the steps. I don't know who did a poll that as Trump supporters you had the media saying the same thing just like you had --


BLACKWELL: And is Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina. I know they were wearing Trump hats and Trump sweatshirts and had Trump banners, and speaking of poles, literal flag poles that Trump flag shouting Trump, Trump, Trump, but did they take a survey to determine if they were Trump supporters.

CAMEROTA: The head in the sand posture that we heard today during that hearing was truly stunning. They were festooned with Trump regalia and Trump flagpoles that they brought to actually beat up Capitol police officers. Okay. On that note, The Lead with Jake Tapper starts now.