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V.P. Harris Begins Vaccination Tour as Shots Stall; Experts Have Serious Warning to Unvaccinated about Delta Variant; Novavax COVID Vaccine Shows 50 Percent Efficacy in Late-Stage Trials; Nine Killed in Mass Shootings This Weekend; U.S. Assessing Leak Reported at Chinese Nuclear Power Facility. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 14, 2021 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:34:03]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Running out of time as vaccinations stall in a dangerous variant is raising major concerns.

Vice President Kamala Harris is kicking off a new vaccination push today as the nation struggles to reach President Biden's goal of 70 percent of adults having at least one shot by the 4th of July.

Right now, here's where we stand. We're at about 64 percent. The vice president is making her first stop in South Carolina and she'll wrap up later this week in Atlanta.

According to Johns Hopkins University. both Georgia and South Carolina have only vaccinated about a third of their populations.

And CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, is joining us.

Jeremy, how is the White House planning to get these numbers up?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this visit by the vice president is certainly one of those efforts. But really it was in the message that the vice president delivered and the programs and the incentives that you heard her discussing.

Just a little bit ago, she was at a site nearby to here talking to volunteers going out to canvas the neighborhood encouraging people to get vaccinated.

[13:35:07]

And the vice president talked about the importance of fighting against this misinformation that is out there about the vaccines, touting the safety and efficacy of these vaccines.

As well as talking about some of the programs that can help people make these vaccines more accessible. One of those programs is happening right behind me at this YMCA here,

offering free childcare to anybody who needs to get vaccinated and needs to leave one-third kids some place.

The vice president is visiting a pop-up vaccination site you can see behind me.

All of this is happening after a bumpy week for the vice president.

And certainly she and her team are looking forward to this vaccine tour to try and put behind this foreign trip that happened last week when the vice president offered a pretty -- fumbled this answer in an interview with NBC News about whether or not she would visit the border and why she has not yet.

Several allies and former aides to the vice president told me that they had flashbacks as they watched that answer that the vice president delivered there seeing it as part of a broader pattern of messaging missteps that the vice president has had.

And this time, it came after the vice president in mid-April actually underwent media training to focus on improving her delivery and presentation in interviews and speeches.

While many of the vice president's allies and former aides see a pattern here, see missteps that date back all the way to her 2020 presidential campaign, the vice president pushed back on that notion saying the criticism of this interview has been overblown.

But either way, the media training makes clear they see an opportunity to finesse her performance in media interviews.

But for now, the vice president's team is saying she's not focused on that criticism. She's focused on doing the work.

And some of that work is happening right here. South Carolina has 35 percent of people who are fully vaccinated. That's compared to 43 percent of people who are fully vaccinated nationwide.

So clearly the vice president's efforts focus, in part, on improving those numbers.

CABRERA: Jeremy Diamond. Thank you.

As the vice president tries to ramp up vaccinations today, today, the nation is on the verge of hitting 600,000 deaths from COVID-19. 600,000. That means about one in every 550 people in this country will have died from the virus.

Thanks to vaccines, cases are going down. But for those who have not gotten the shot, experts have a very serious warning about this new Delta variant, first identified in India.

And CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us now.

Elizabeth, why is this variant such a concern for the unvaccinated? DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, it has

been quite horrifying to watch how quickly this Delta variant, the variant first spotted in India, has grown in the U.K.

It went from being a minors train to being the dominant strain. And it's quickly gaining ground in the United States.

Let's take a look at why people are so worried about this Delta variant.

It's about 40 percent more transmissible than previous strains, so it spreads much more quickly.

Also early findings show an increased hospitalization rate. In other words, seems to be making people feel sicker.

And so here's another reason why people are worried about the Delta variant. The vaccine that's out there does not quite work as well, doesn't work quite as well as it does against the previous variant.

Let's take a look at those numbers.

What Public Health England says is that Pfizer is 88 percent effective against the Delta variant and AstraZeneca is 60 percent effect. That is lower than effectiveness for previous strains.

So in other words, this strain is really cause ago challenge to the vaccine. Not a huge challenge. Those numbers are still good. A vaccine, that's like 80 percent effective, that's still great.

But it is taking a hit. And that is why it is so very important that people get vaccinated. Because the less effective the vaccine is, the more people you need to get vaccinated so that we can finally reach herd immunity -- Ana?

CABRERA: Elizabeth, let's talk about another vaccine that looks promising this morning. Novavax announced its COVID vaccine?

What do we know about this vaccine? And if we already have a surplus in the U.S. of other vaccines already authorized, how does this really impact anything?

COHEN: It will be interesting to see, Ana, what the U.S. decides to do with these doses of Novavax that they have promised to purchase. Will they keep them or give them to other countries that need them? It will be interesting to see.

Novavax works differently than Pfizer or Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. That's a good thing.

It's good to have vaccines that work in different ways. We may find they work differently against the variants. There's also other reasons to have this kind of variety.

Let's look at the efficacy results that Novavax saw in their phase three clinal trial. So what they did is in the U.S. and Mexico, they gave 15,000 people the vaccine, and they gave 15,000 people a placebo. So they did it half and half.

And what they found after they waited a couple of months, 63 people who took the placebo got 2019 but only 14 people who got the vaccine got COVID-19. So that means that the vaccine worked.

[13:40:10]

And, Ana, this last part is super important. All of those people who got COVID after being vaccinated, they were all mildly ill. They weren't horribly sick in the hospital. They were mildly ill.

This data really looks good for Novavax. And it will be interesting to see what the U.S. does with its doses.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Elizabeth Cohen.

They aren't just numbers or a headline. At least 10 people killed in mass shootings across America since Friday. Dozens of others injured. What we know and what Congress is doing or not doing about it.

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CABRERA: These are numbers we cannot let ourselves grow numb to. At least 10 people are dead and 50 injured in mass shootings across the country just since Friday.

There have been more than 270 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone. Several manhunts are under way to find the gunmen.

And hours ago, police arrested two 15-year-olds suspected in a shooting in Atlanta.

CNN's Omar Jimenez reports.

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OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A dangerous surge in gun violence is putting cities across the United States on edge this morning.

In Atlanta, a security guard was shot in the stomach outside the Lenox Square Mall.

DEPUTY CHIEF TIMOTHY PEEK, ATLANTA POLICE: They approached him with the gun, and so from there, the investigation will tell us exactly what transpired.

JIMENEZ: Here in Chicago, police are searching for two gunmen who opened fire into a group of people standing on a sidewalk on the city's south side Friday, killing one woman and injuring nine other people. It happened just moments after another mass shooting in downtown

Austin, Texas, where people say one of the 14 people shot from their injuries died Sunday afternoon.

Authorities say they arrested one person in connection to the attack but are looking for another.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D-AUSTIN): Just a horrific event. And it's becoming something that all too often is being presented.

JIMENEZ: And since Friday afternoon, at least nine people are dead and 47 others injured after eight mass shootings in six states according to gun violence archive data.

Dallas Police are investigating a shooting outside an apartment complex on Friday that left five people injured, including a four- year-old girl.

And on the same night in Savannah, Georgia, authorities are searching for who's responsible for a shooting that left one person dead and at least seven others wounded, including a 2-year-old and a 13-year-old.

CHIEF ROY MINTER JR., SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: There were a few people who were standing in front of the residence and there was a vehicle, a dark color or possibly red sedan, that rode by and fired rounds into that crowd.

JIMENEZ: In Cleveland, three men were killed outside a Cleveland gas station Saturday morning.

Later that day, at least four were hurt in a shooting in Cincinnati, including two children police say were in critical condition.

LT. COL. MIKE JOHN, CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT: Anytime you have somebody struck with gunfire that age, it's going to be critical. But specifically the eight-year-old is in very, very bad shape.

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JIMENEZ: The deadly surge in gun violence as the nation paused to remember the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre five years ago.

President Joe Biden announced the site will become a national memorial and called on Congress to approve gun control legislation.

Writing in a statement: "There is more we must do to address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms, mass shootings, and daily acts of gun violence that don't make national headlines."

Some local leaders also calling for action, fearing gun violence will only continue to rise.

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON (D-SAVANNAH): The reality is, in Georgia, we can't be mad that guns are everywhere when Georgia law allows guns to be everywhere.

We not only need to have stronger gun laws in Georgia and nationally. But what we also need to have is to teach our young people better decision making.

JIMENEZ (on camera): And on the question of why, there are a lot of factors at play here.

Some law enforcement experts have said that it's stemmed from economic hardship from the pandemic, from strained police resources, breakdowns in judicial processes.

Bottom line, this is a compounded grim reality we are seeing as the U.S. begins to open back up.

And we see this as, of course, we head into what is typically the deadliest time of the year for gun violence, and that's the summertime -- Ana?

CABRERA: And we are not going to let up. We're going to continue to report on this. It is so important. And until our leaders take action. And 305 people were killed this year alone in mass shootings. No other country.

Thank you so much, Omar Jimenez.

[13:49:38]

A reported leak at a nuclear power plant puts U.S. officials on alert. CNN's exclusive reporting next.

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CABRERA: CNN has learned that the U.S. government is assessing reports of a possible leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant after the French company that part owns and operates it warned of imminent radiological threat.

CNN reached out to Chinese authorities in Beijing and in Guangdong Province. And the embassy in Washington. None have responded. This is a holiday weekend in China.

CNN's David Culver is following this from Shanghai.

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DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, U.S. sources tell CNN the situation involves a fission gas leak at a nuclear power plant in southern China.

They warned of the potential to become a serious risk. But they stress that it could be quickly resolved without further issue. It's why U.S. officials are closely monitoring the situation.

[13:54:58] Now, this began late last month when sources say the French company, Framatome, that cooperates the plant reached out to the U.S. Department of Energy.

They petitioned for a waiver of assistance as they're dealing with a leak of fission gas.

Experts say the gas is a normal byproduct of nuclear reactors. And that it is radiological. And if it rises above certain limits, it can be harmful.

Sources tell CNN the French company followed up with two more requests for the waiver to be approved. Citing this to be a, quote, "imminent" radiological threat.

And they accused the Chinese of raising safety limits to allow the plant to keep operating.

Despite the alarming notification, the Biden administration believes the facilitate is not at a, quote, "crisis level," according to one source.

Through statements from the French company running the plant, along with the plant via its Web site, both downplaying any critical concern as of yet. Saying they are monitoring it and saying the plan is in authorized operating and safety parameters.

The concerning factor, transparency or lack thereof on the part of the Chinese.

Chinese officials have not responded to our request for comment. Though it's a national holiday weekend here -- Ana?

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CABRERA: David Culver, in Shanghai, thank you.

That does it for me today. Thanks for being here. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 eastern. In the meantime follow me on Twitter,@AnaCabrera.

The news continues with Alisyn and Victor.

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