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Biden's Vaccination Goal Faces Uphill Battle; Average Pace of Vaccinations Falls Below 1 Million Per Day; Ex-Alabama Officer Being Paid After Murder Conviction. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 4, 2021 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: President Biden's mission to have 70 percent of American adults with at least one shot of a vaccination by the Fourth of July is facing some headwinds.

As of today, 63 percent have received at least one dose. And if we stay on the current trajectory, the U.S. will fall about 6 million people short of that goal.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So we wanted to talk to some of the millions of people who remain hesitant or resistant to getting the vaccine to find out why. So as you're about to hear, they had many reasons. Here's your pulse of the people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Show of hands. Do any of you worry about getting COVID?

No, you don't. OK, so, Jennifer, you're a really interesting place to start because you are a registered nurse. And so you, as I understand it, worked in a COVID unit. You saw the worst of the worst. And I would think that you would want to get the vaccine as soon as it's available, but I know that you have hesitance.

JENNIFER BRIDGES, UNSURE ABOUT GETTING COVID-19 VACCINE: Basically, I just want some more research. We've been seeing a lot in the hospital, like just between the patients and the employees that I work with, we're seeing a lot of adverse reactions after Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. So, it makes me a little leery because you don't know, you know, until you take it if you're going to get one of those reactions or not.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, you know because you're in the medical field that they have researched these things and millions and millions of people have gotten them without adverse reactions.

BRIDGES: You don't have the research to support it or deny it. I mean you can't verify either way right now because there's not enough proper studies done to really show it, but I think we need a few more years -- at least a couple more years to see any long-term effects. CAMEROTA: Diana, I want to move on to you and you have an autoimmune

disease.

DIANA BAJAKIAN, UNSURE ABOUT GETTING COVID-19 VACCINE: Correct.

CAMEROTA: So, tell me where your hesitancy lies now.

BAJAKIAN: So, I know from my past being treated for various illnesses, usually I have bad side effects from that intervention. For me that was my hesitancy, that I didn't want to exacerbate my Crohn's disease because I've been in remission for so many years.

CAMEROTA: OK, Quick, let's move on to you. Tell us your hesitancy about vaccines.

QUICKSILVA, GOT ONE DOSE OF COVID 19 VACCINE, MAY SKIP SECOND: A history of just not being able to trust vaccines. I've never been a vaccine guy. A lot of us as black men and black women in general, we've just been hesitant about doing things because we've always felt like we're kind of always set up not to win.

CAMEROTA: And yet at some point you did come around and you got the first vaccine.

QUICKSILVA: Yea, so it's crazy. I'm a DJ so I travel a lot for work. So my doctor and my wife they were kind of, you know, pushing me towards getting the vaccine. I really wasn't for it.

The crazy part, so I eventually, I gave in and I got the first vaccine. Two weeks after getting the vaccine, I contracted it, which really, really, really turned me off about getting the second one. So, I really didn't have any real symptoms. I had a fever. I didn't lose any sense of taste or smell or anything like that.

CAMEROTA: OK, but the fact that you didn't have more severe symptoms, maybe you can thank the vaccine that you got.

QUICKSILVA: You sound like my doctor. He said the exact same thing. And like I said to him, maybe, but maybe not. We don't know. I think that the part that's frustrating, and somebody else mentioned it, we just don't have enough data. Right now we're all still guinea pigs.

CAMEROTA: So, did you get your second shot?

QUICKSILVA: No, I have not gotten my second shot. And I -- honestly, if your next question, am I planning on getting a second shot? Today my answer is, I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Jenin, tell me about your hesitancy, what's it based on?

JENIN YOUNES, DOES NOT PLAN TO GET COVID 19 VACCINE: I had COVID in February so I have natural immunity. There's no reason for me to get the vaccine. There's no reason for me to take the vaccine doses from vulnerable people in this country or in other countries who need it more than I do.

CAMEROTA: You just don't know how long your natural immunity will last. There aren't --

YOUNES: We don't know how long immunity from the vaccine lasts. This is taking on a religious mentality, in my opinion, on the progressive liberal side of the spectrum.

CAMEROTA: Has this experience with COVID changed your politics?

YOUNES: Yes, it's changed my politics. Now I'll vote for anybody who cares about civil liberties and who doesn't allow the trampling of our rights that we've seen over the past year.

CAMEROTA: And Jennifer, I see you applauding. So tell me your thoughts.

BRIDGES: I'm loving hearing her talk right now. Everything she says, I basically agree with.

QUICKSILVA: I was really applauding the young lady who says something about just taking away our first amendment rights. Not only am I a DJ, I'm a club owner.

[15:35:00]

So what this did to businesses, a lot of businesses will never recover. I know the government tried to do certain PPP, but all the big major, billion dollar, and Fortune 500 companies, they got all the big grants. A lot of us small businesses, especially black-owned businesses, we were left with crumbs. You get what you can get, and then you got to pay it back.

I mean it just -- all of this has become so unfair and so political. And I think that's why there's just distrust because we see that people are doing things now not for health reasons but for business reasons.

CAMEROTA: And last, Jennifer, your boss says that everybody needs to get the vaccine by June 7th or lose their job. Are you willing to lose your job as a result of not getting it?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I've actually had multiple companies reach out to want to hire me now because they respect the fact of what an advocate I'm being. I'm totally prepared to lose my job.

QUICKSILVA: She's willing to lose her job for something she believes in. I respect that more than somebody who does something just because the world says it's the right thing to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA (on camera): OK, so next, Victor, we're going to add an interesting voice to this panel.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: One of the hardest working emergency room doctors in the country is going to join that conversation to tell them what he's dealing with and to tackle their pushback. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:40:00]

CAMEROTA: OK, you just heard from four Americans who shared why they do not want to get the COVID vaccine. Dr. Joseph Varon, the Chief of Staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston was listening in on that conversation and he will now give those panelists his thoughts after he has seen scores of COVID patients die. Here's part two of "Pulse of the People."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Dr. Varon, you have your work cut out for you, obviously, because all of these folks say they've done their research. They have, you know, really strong opinions. So Dr. Varon, what jumped out at you?

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON: Well first of all, I do hear a lot of misconceptions. A lot of misconceptions that are to some extent dangerous.

I mean I have no problem in somebody telling me, hey, I think of my immunity is good enough, and I don't need anything else. If that's the case, then my recommendation would be just go ahead and check your levels, see what are your antibodies, see where you stand.

Now, it's also very interesting data that actually shows that if you get the vaccine after you have the COVID, you have a 100 percent chance that you will not get the COVID that's going to get you in the ICU or kill you, which is fantastic.

YOUNES: I've spoken to some of the best epidemiologists in the world that say, it's unequivocally established in that immunity is long- lasting.

VARON: The epidemiologist may tell you whatever they want but they just manage numbers. I am seeing these day in and day out. I have seen people that have had COVID once --

YOUNES: That's not a science. That's not a science.

VARON: -- I know it's not science, it's a reality, the realities are I have seen patients that have COVID once, and they came in with COVID the second time and they come in deadly ill. I mean, I have a patient that's had COVID three different times. Once in March, once in July and once in December. Same patient.

YOUNES: But you don't make policy based on anecdotes.

CAMEROTA: But Jenin, just to be clear, Dr. Varon isn't making policy. He's a front-line worker in an emergency room. He's sharing with you, his experience. I mean he's telling you that people who have had COVID can have it again.

What?

YOUNES: That really says nothing.

VARON: You know, I'm -- my views are based on my years of education, training and experience that I have gained, unfortunately, after taking care of a couple thousand patients with severe COVID in my hospital of which a lot of them die.

BRIDGES: I known a lot of doctors in private practices and in the ERs that treated COVID a lot differently. They didn't send people home and wait until they got bad and it was too late to come in. But nobody in the media or across the country wants to talk about preventive or prophylaxis.

CAMEROTA: OK, but Jennifer, that's not true. We'd would have loved to have talked about therapeutics but they have to work. I mean they have to actually have some testing behind it.

But hold on, I just want to go through a couple things that they brought up, Dr. Varon, autoimmune disease, do you agree that someone with an autoimmune disease should go slow when it comes to the vaccine?

VARON: I'm in agreement with her. I believe people that with autoimmune disorders need to be a little more careful.

CAMEROTA: OK, but what about, Dr. Varon, what about what -- so many people are concerned about the connection to blood clots. Have are you seen that in your hospital?

VARON: You know, we haven't seen it. It's so rare. I mean --

BRIDGES: No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. But no, that's not true. Nobody is being made right now to report these adverse reactions properly.

BAJAKIAN: So to her point, on April 23, 2021, Jansen Biotech, which is J&J, did put out another notice about -- and it's right here. You can go on the web and you can find it. Which states that most of thrombosis in -- thrombocytopenia were occurred in females ages 18 to 49 and some have been fatal.

CAMEROTA: But I mean it's still even with that, I think that it was a handful. And I'm not, obviously, discounting their deaths but I'm saying of the millions of people who have gotten the vaccine that I think they can still count it on two hands how many females in that age range died.

QUICKSILVA: My question for the doctor, he said he had a patient who came in and he or she had COVID-19 three times within a year. Were they vaccinated?

VARON: They were not vaccinated. That's the whole point. Not a single one of the patients that I've seen with COVID-19 requiring admission to my COVID ICU have had the COVID vaccine.

Today I admitted three of them. When you talk to them, they all give you a reason, you know, very similar to some of the ones that you guys are saying. And now these patients are about to be on a respirator. So that's why you guys need to understand, and I'm looking at the greater good.

[15:45:00]

I understand that there may be a risk. There's a risk of everything, for god's sake, but what I'm trying is to save as many lives as we can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (on camera): You know what was great about that conversation is that I didn't hear any like rabid, committed anti-vaxxers.

CAMEROTA: No.

BLACKWELL: You can decide if, you know, their concerns are reasonable but there was no talk of computer chips or trying to inject something nefarious --

CAMEROTA: And a lot of them have gotten other vaccines. They have gotten other -- some of the standard vaccines. But this one they feel is too soon. And I understand that. Not everybody is always the first person through the gate. Some people need to take a breath, take a year and wait. The problem is that then the Dr. Varon has to treat the people. I mean, what he's gone through, that is the man who has worked 444 days straight without taking a single day off because he was so overrun with COVID patients.

So, there's a consequence to not wanting to be the first out of the gate. I'm not saying that they're wrong. In fact I always learn something from our panelists. And I really appreciate them coming on and being willing to be on national TV and sharing their perspective on all of that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it certainly is not easy. And I remember DJ QuickSilver from when I was living in D.C. Good to see him again.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Coming up next, and listen to this, in Alabama a police officer convicted of murder is out of jail on bond. He's still getting paid. Hear how the victim's family's responding next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: A police officer convicted of murder in Alabama is still getting paid by the city, almost a month, after a jury said he was guilty. William Darby was convicted in the shooting death of Jeffrey Parker. This was in 2018. And Parker called #911 saying he was suicidal. When officers arrived, he had a gun to his own head but the first two officers on the scene felt he was not a threat to them. When Darby arrived, he repeatedly yelled at Parker to drop his gun, and then shot Parker seconds later. So again this was all in April of 2018. About a month later, the

police review board office cleared Officer Darby of any wrongdoing but a grand jury indicted him. And last month Darby was convicted of murder and taken into custody. Only to bond out, a few hours later. He is still out of jail on what's called accrued leave with pay, until his sentencing, in August. Darby's defense team says they will appeal.

Joining me now, is the attorney for Jeffrey Parker's family, Martin Weinberg. Martin, thanks for being with me. First, what does this family feel about Officer Darby still being paid, after conviction for murder?

MARTIN WEINBERG, ATTORNEY FOR JEFFREY PARKER'S FAMILY: Sure, thanks for having us, Victor. They're pretty upset. You know, we -- and they believe the taxpayers should be even more upset.

You know, this is a city that's already paid $125,000 or authorized $125,000 for his defense. He was found guilty. And the mayor and the police chief have not changed their tune on this. They're still supporting him, and they're still paying him.

I mean, they feel that this is a travesty. And the fact that the taxpayers are having to pay for this is pretty incredible. I mean there is a lot about this case that's unprecedented but it's infuriating to a lot of people, the public and the family.

BLACKWELL: You know, you pointed out that the city council actually voted, back in 2018, to pay the legal fees using public money for Officer Darby. Now, Darby was not the first to respond that day, as I pointed out. According to the AP another officer testified that Parker was upset. He was talking to her and posed no-immediate threat, despite a gun held to his head.

Why do you think Officer Darby shot him, then, if not for genuine fear for his life, which is what his attorneys and the police chief are saying?

WEINBERG: Sure. Right, yes, two other officers had responded. You know, a female officer and a male officer, and Officer Pegues had seemed to have deescalate it. She had tried de-escalation techniques.

And, you know, Darby heard this on his radio. He was not the responding officer. You know, we are talking about two other officers that had ten-plus years of experience. He had been on the force for 18 months. He came in and shoved them out of the way, essentially, and just barked commands at Pegues and then shot Mr. Parker right after in the mouth. And so, you know, the jury listened to this case. It was -- it was a quick trial and they convened and found him guilty of murder.

So, you know, it's a clear case. And we're just -- we can't understand why the mayor and the chief have taken this position and the city, in terms of continuing to pay him. Had they terminated him immediately, or the review board had taken some type of action. We'd be in a different place right now. We probably wouldn't be talking about this particular part of the case. BLACKWELL: And here's what the police chief said, while we thank the

jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer. Officers are forced to make split decisions -- split-second decisions every day. And Officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger. Any situation that involves the loss of life is tragic. Our hearts go out to everyone involved.

You say that your clients are less concerned about his pay, are looking for justice. What is the definition of justice?

WEINBERG: Well, you know, we can't bring Mr. Parker back. We can't bring any of these individuals back in these cases. But we can change the culture of what happens in a city, in terms of their police force and how they respond.

I mean, we've seen, you know, a big moment with George Floyd in Minneapolis. Breonna Taylor, in Louisville. I think the Jeffrey Parker case is right up there with these cases, in terms of what folks should be looking at. There are so many angles to this. And so, you know, of course, you know, we're wanting the city to have to reform and change. And, you know, do differently and do better.

BLACKWELL: Yes, all right, Martin Weinberg, thank you so much for being with us.

I should, also, read from Darby's attorney.

[15:55:00]

To so say that the people are shocked at this verdict would be a big understatement. Certainly, we appreciate the hard work that the jury did this week. The things they had to think about. We know it was difficult for them. We will certainly give their verdict the respect it deserves but it still remains that we disagree with their verdict.

Thank you so much, again, Mr. Weinberg, and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: This week's CNN Hero chef Q. Ibraheem had to shut down her supper club during the pandemic, and instead, delivered free meals to people in need.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Q. IBRAHEEM, CHEF, FOUNDER, KIDS WITH CO-WORKERS (voice over): I've witnessed that people are literally a paycheck away from not eating. That's heartbreaking. That's unbelievable but it's so, very real. And it's continuously happening.

We've served over 60,000 meals in the past-14 months. I'm inspired to keep going because the need has not stopped.

It's a great feeling to know that I'm able to ease the burden, if just a little bit. IBRAHEEM: That's beautiful. Oh, my gosh that's the okra too.

IBRAHEEM (voice over): I am giving them a sense of understanding that we are in it together. A sense of knowing that people in your community do care.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMERTOA: To learn more about her work go to CNNHeroes.com. And The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.

END