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Confusion over Booster Shots; Heavy Rain Floods NYC Subway; Heat Advisories in the West; GOP Adviser Tried to Improve Greene's Reputation. Aired 9-9:30a ET.

Aired July 9, 2021 - 09:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, I think we do just have to go back to that amazing appearance by Zaila Avant-garde.


KEILAR: Was she something or what, John Berman?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I -- I think she's fantastic. And the fact that she wants to do all those things.

KEILAR: I know.

BERMAN: And, as you say, I have every confidence, frankly, that she will.

KEILAR: Harvard basketball. Like, amazing. I bet she'll do it, too. I bet she'll do it.

Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the week off.

A big question this morning, will we need COVID booster shots as new, dangerous strains of the virus, including the highly contagious delta variant, spread around the country? Much like annual flu shots. Just hours after drug maker Pfizer announced that a third dose of its vaccine could greatly increase protection against the virus and that it will seek Emergency Use Authorization for a booster shot next month, the FDA and CDC said, to be clear, we're not quite there yet.

The two top federal agencies issued a joint statement claiming that more data is needed before authorizing a third dose of the vaccine, saying, quote, Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. That's a key message.

Joining me now, CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, I wonder how folks at home should look at this, particularly those already vaccinated. I mean could this be Pfizer preparing for the worst here if these variants get worse, right, but the FDA and CDC saying, listen, the data shows that for now those vaccines protect you?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, it's a little bit unclear what is happening here. Usually drug companies, and especially the FDA, are very sort of coordinated in their messaging. So it is unclear what's happening here because this is the big picture.

The big picture is that one-third of Americans have chosen not to get vaccinated. And so, obviously, they have some concerns about these vaccines. And so now Pfizer is saying, ah, we're not really sure that two shots is enough. We think there may be waning immunity. We think you might need a third. So we're applying to the FDA for authorization.

So, what is that one-third of America supposed to think? Why go get a vaccine if they're saying that you need actually a third shot. So that's one concern about what Pfizer has done here.

Pfizer did not put up any new data saying that a third shot was necessary. And, in fact, there's a lot of data saying that these two shots are great, that they work really well. Pfizer just pointed to some Israeli data, but it's a little bit strange -- again strange -- why they pointed to the Israeli data as proof that you might need a third shot.

Let's look at that Israeli data. So, the Israeli data that was released by the ministry of health with very little explanation said that 60 -- that the shot, right now, or two shots of Pfizer rather, are 64 percent effective at preventing infection and 93 percent effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalization.

And, Jim, just days ago you and I were talking about how that second number is the important number, it's 93 percent effective. Even with all that delta variant out there, it is 93 percent effective at preventing hospitalization. Why are we messing with this? It is unclear. Why are we messing with this both from a sort of, why do we need to? And, also, it really sends a funny message when a third of Americans have chosen not to get the first two shots.

SCIUTTO: True. I mean, because they don't seem to be reading the data that this is highly, highly -- I mean you made the point the other day, and this is in the data, more than 99 percent of the people who, unfortunately, died from COVID are unvaccinated.

COHEN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Can't be clearer. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, joining me now to help you understand all this, emergency medicine physician Dr. Richina Bicette. She's medical director at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Good to have you back, Doctor.


SCIUTTO: So, I don't know, I look at this and I say, part of me says, what's the big deal, right? I mean we get flu shots every year because the flu changes every year. And you have to kind of keep up with those variants. I mean is that the potential future that folks should be preparing for, that the vaccine protects you today, particularly from going to the hospital, particularly from dying, but as it develops in future years you may need boosters?

BICETTE: You know, I think this has been a question almost since the very advent of the release of the vaccines. We've always wondered whether or not immunity would wane and if we would need booster shots.

What people have to remember is that the development of the COVID vaccines was very, very accelerated. Typically in the past, it took years to develop vaccines for certain conditions. And this vaccine was developed in under a year. So there were still a lot of questions that were unanswered.

Right now, we're coming up on about one year since both Pfizer and Moderna began their phase three clinical trials. So what we don't know is if Pfizer is making these statements because they're examining serum from people who were enrolled in phase three clinical trials early and they're seeing something that they're not yet reporting.


SCIUTTO: So, let me just give you the floor here for a moment because you do have about a third of the country that has chosen not to take the vaccine. And, frankly, some of that is based on disinformation, right, or not understanding or accepting what the data shows about how much this protects you.

Messaging is important here. The concern is that this muddles the message, right, on the current vaccine. So you have the floor, Dr. Bicette. Speak to folks who may be watching right now who are not vaccinated about why they should get vaccinated for their own sake.

BICETTE: Well, I will tell you, Jim, that we're seeing, right now, there has been a very slight increase in COVID cases over the last couple of weeks. And where we're seeing those hot spots and those rise in cases are places where vaccination rates are particularly low.

So, yes, the message is muddled. But if you're not vaccinated, you are completely at risk for all of the variants. The delta variant, the U.K. variant, the Brazilian variant, the South African variant. You have no protection whatsoever. So while it may be true that a booster dose is needed, this is not

something that is a novel idea. We get flu shots every year because the flu virus that is predominant changes every year and we're seeing the same pattern with coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, I mean, it's amazing that flu vaccines have not had this kind of politicization, right, and pushback and just kind of a thing that a lot of people do, right, to protect themselves every year. But this is where we are, sadly.

As you look forward to that potential, the potential of needing boosters, is there any issue with mixing vaccines? For instance, I got -- I got the Pfizer vaccine. Would it be OK for me to get a Moderna booster going forward, or the other way around?

BICETTE: So, I can't definitively say that for now because that hasn't been tested. There have been no clinical trials with the mixing of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

I will say, though, that although Moderna has remained silent on this issue for now, they began clinical trials on whether or not a booster was needed months ago, when the U.K. variant first appeared. So we should be expecting to hear something along similar sentiments. If Pfizer is truly seeing data that shows that immunity is waning and booster shots are needed, Moderna is also an mRNA vaccine and their data is likely to show the same.

However, we don't have any evidence that mixing doses or mixing different types of vaccine is going to offer you the same type of protection.

SCIUTTO: OK, there is new data in two studies released on Thursday that confirm that children remain at very low risk of complications and death from coronavirus infections. British researchers looked into this. And the numbers are encouraging there.

I wonder, though, for folks watching who are vaccinated, but their children are not yet vaccinated because it's not approved for -- under emergency use for folks under 12, will this change the FDA's thinking potentially on issuing emergency use authorization for children younger than 12? And what's the likely timeline on that?

BICETTE: So, we know that both Pfizer and Moderna are doing testing on children as young as six months of age, but none of that data has been released just yet.

When you look at the overall vaccination rates, yes, 55 percent of the country is vaccinated. But if you break that down into age groups, over 67 percent of adults over 18 have received at least one shot, and over 89 percent of adults over the age of 65 have released one shot.

And with more and more adults getting fully vaccinated and getting their vaccines, the rate of children who are presenting with coronavirus and symptomatic infections is very, very slowly increasing. So, yes, having herd immunity amongst adults can potentially provide some protection to children. Children will still need to be vaccinated on their own in order to confer the best protection possible.

SCIUTTO: Understood. We'll be looking for those developments.

Dr. Richina Bicette, thanks so much.

BICETTE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: From extreme heat to flooding, parts of the U.S. dealing with extremely extreme weather today. Take a look at this video out of New York City overnight. Fierce thunderstorms slammed the city and suburbs, causing flooding in subway stations and in major roadways around the city.

Tropical Storm Elsa also prompted flash flood watches for millions of people in states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, also here in D.C.

While in the western U.S., more than 30 million people are under heat advisories due to extreme temperatures there. Las Vegas and Phoenix both expected to approach 115 degrees over the weekend.

AMS meteorologist Chad Myers with us now, as well as CNN's Camila Bernal, she's live in Lake Mead, Nevada.


Chad, those storms in New York yesterday, they were major. I mean some of those scenes of subway flooding, just, you know, hard to see.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, while most of us were focused on Elsa, this didn't have anything to do with Elsa. This was a completely separate system that just dumped rain over New York.

This is the radar from yesterday. It was just right over Bergen County, right over Kings, right over Queens, right over Manhattan. And all of this caused this.

Here are the pictures that we're just getting in now. Getting approved to show you people going down into the subway.

Now, I have a problem with part of this is that you know what that third rail is, Jim, right, don't you? That's where the power comes from. If these people are in water here, that third rail must have also been in water. Hopefully that got shut off in time. But, hey, let's -- you know, we tell you, turn around, don't drown when you're driving into water. Well, don't go into a flooded subway. I think that was kind of risky there. Just my own opinion, but there it is, for what it's worth.


MYERS: Here you go.

SCIUTTO: They might have been trying to get out, actually. We know they --

MYERS: It looked like they were going down. Maybe they were going up. I don't know.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, that is a waterfall down the four train in -- on the east side of New York.

MYERS: Yes. Is that -- is that the four train?

SCIUTTO: Our Brynn Gingras, she is at one of those subways.

I mean this was remarkable to see. What are they doing about it and has it abated?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, listen, I would not be in a garbage bag going into that subway water.


GINGRAS: Listen, the good news here in New York, this was one of the subways that was really flooded last night in that evening commute. But you can see it is now dry. And we did just check in with the MTA, which oversees all of the transit, the subway systems here in New York City, and they said there are no delays.

And we actually are not seeing many people complaining about it or waiting around in garbage bags. But as you guys have been referencing that video, it was quite a scene last night, which I'm told was really just before Elsa actually got to this area. That was a thunderstorm leading up to Elsa.

And right now we're only seeing a light rain outside here in New York City as Elsa, as Chad has been saying, is heading up now into more of the northeast.

But, certainly, that was havoc for this area during an evening commute rush, as you can imagine. I think we have video to show you of a major highway system in the Bronx, the Major Deegan (ph), which got flooded. Cars were stranded in that flood water because it came down so quickly in that storm.

People had to be rescued by the fire department and the NYPD. And then, of course, all those scenes all across the city of the subway systems that were flooded where people had to wade around in garbage bags, where water was coming from the ceiling, where it was coming spouted through the ground.

And, luckily, there were no injuries associated with that storm. But, of course, this is just a reminder of how quickly things can change for people in a major metropolitan area when storms come that quickly as we're starting to see more and more happen.


SCIUTTO: No question. Well, Camila Bernal, from one extreme to another, you know, you're out in Lake Mead, which is a canary in a coal mine for something different, right? I mean extreme drought conditions and now high heat. Tell us what you're seeing out there.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, it's not even 6:15 in the morning, Jim, and it's already about 95 degrees. But the hottest temperatures, those are expected over the weekend. Las Vegas, for example, likely going to approach its all-time high temperature of 117 degrees. So that severe drought on the western part of the United States, of course, impacting this area where I am right now.

Officials at Lake Mead telling me that every single day they're reporting a new low in those water levels. So there saying that by August they're already anticipating a shortage in water. And what that means is that come next year, places like Las Vegas or Arizona will have to get less water from here. And, overall, about 25 million people depend on this reservoir. That's more than the population of the state of Florida.

And it's not just the water. It's the electricity. It's the increase in fire danger. And then, of course, people's health. Many here in this area, they know how to handle this heat. They have the air conditioning and the pools. But, nonetheless, it's a very similar heat wave to the one that we saw in the Pacific Northwest where the death toll continues to increase. It's already at about 200 deaths reported. So people here hoping to avoid that. There's a lot of tourists and they don't always know how to handle these temperatures, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, they're calling it a mass casualty event up in some of those northwestern states.

Chad, Brynn, Camila, thank you for bringing us all ends of this story.

Still to come this hour, there was new CNN reporting that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was involved in a behind the scenes effort to help rehabilitate the reputation of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene after her recent anti-Semitic remarks. We're going to have the details next.

Also, we will be live again in Afghanistan where the Taliban now claims they are in control of 85 percent of the country.


This as U.S. troops leave.

Plus, new video from inside the parking garage of Champlain Towers before the collapse. It shows extensive damage, perhaps potential clues as to what's behind all this. We will walk you through that video coming up.

A lot going on this morning. Please stay with us.


SCIUTTO: CNN has learned that a top adviser to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was involved in trying to rehabilitate the image of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene after her recent anti-Semitic comments.


That effort apparently did not work because once again this week Greene invoked Nazi-era imagery to mock simple COVID safety practices. This just weeks after apologizing for other anti-Semitic remarks. McCarthy has publicly denounced some of the actions by Greene and other controversial, shall we call them, Republican members of Congress. He has not moved to punish any of them as of yet.

CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona joins me now.

So, Melanie, McCarthy, I mean, what's he trying to do here, strike some sort of impossible balance?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, he has taken a really soft touch approach to handling these members. Part of the calculation for McCarthy is that he doesn't want to alienate this Donald Trump- aligned group of Republicans who he likely will need if he wants to become speaker one day. He's also told people around him that he thinks it's better to keep these members in the fold than completely excommunicate them because then you really can't control them.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, we're not talking about members with controversial statements.

ZANONA: Right.

SCIUTTO: Marjorie Taylor Greene compares COVID regulations to the Holocaust.

ZANONA: Right. And it's also -- it's not just Greene. Paul Gosar, for example --


ZANONA: He spoke at a conference --


ZANONA: Organized by a known white nationalist.


ZANONA: And suffered zero repercussions from his own party. Paul Gosar has also been defending the rioter who was shot by police after she stormed the Capitol. Other members, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Greene, have been floating this conspiracy theory that the FBI was involved in the January 6th attack. And so there is some concern within the party that if leaders don't do more to stomp out these brush fires, that it's going to engulf the entire party.

SCIUTTO: Trump's doing the same thing, right? I mean it's sort of -- it's happening on multiple fronts.

Great reporting. Melanie Zanona, thanks very much. ZANONA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp.

You've got to take a breath here.

Steve King -- OK, so, Steve King, noted racist, defended white supremacy. You know, he did get his committee assignments taken away. But now you have Greene repeatedly making comparisons between simple health guidelines and Nazi tactics. Boebert doing the same. Paul Gosar, as Melanie was saying here, hanging out with known white nationalists.

What's happening to the Republican Party? I mean is it -- should we just say they've thrown their lot in with these extremists?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, and there's no point in rehabbing someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's not a rehab project, she's a tear down, get rid of it and try to save your party. That is not a calculation Kevin McCarthy has had the courage to make.

He has decided that keeping her and her base happy is more important than calling out what is very clearly, you know, obvious to the rest of us as insane and, you know, white nationalism, anti-Semitism, non- conspiracy. Rather than do that, he's preferred to keep -- keep her happy and the base happy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Much like former -- the former president after that phone call during January 6th, very critical of Trump. He's clearly backed off there.

I wonder, does Kevin McCarthy have the respect of his party here? Does he have the respect of either side, if you want to call it that, within the party, the sort of more moderates who remain versus the Greenes of the world?

CUPP: Well, no, I think when it comes to people like Greene, Matt Gaetz, who, by the way, has been accused of being a child predator still in Congress, Lauren Boebert, they - they have one master and the master is Trump. And Kevin McCarthy doesn't (ph) compare. And so the tisk-tisking from Kevin McCarthy, you know, behind closed doors really has not done much to -- to silence, you know, any of these people. They're listening to Trump and Trump voters. And so whatever they are saying has trumped whatever Kevin McCarthy is trying to do.

He's been a very ineffective leader both on, you know, this side of it, you know, hoping that he would sort of discipline these kinds of members, but also from the other side, if you're, you know, a Trump supporter, you don't have much respect for Kevin McCarthy.


One of the most disturbing developments of many in the last few weeks is that Donald Trump is now openly defending Capitol rioters. Not just not calling them out, he's openly defending them. Is this where the party is going now? Because other members of Congress are doing the same. You know, is that a new litmus test for Republican candidates in 2022, like the big lie, that they now have to do January 6th revisionism, right, to get the seal of approval of Trump and the party?

CUPP: Yes. I don't think it's where it's going. I think it's where it's gone.


CUPP: I mean in that -- in the weeks after January 6th, you had congressmen in the GOP defending it, excusing it, justifying it, coming up with a rationale for it and then spinning that into lies about it.


So it's already -- that ship has sailed. They're already doing that. And I think to question what happened on January 6th has become somewhat treasonous in the Republican Party.


CUPP: And (INAUDIBLE) grotesque.

SCIUTTO: What's the -- what's the status of the moderate Republican resurgence or attempt at resurgence? Liz Cheney took a stand. She got kicked out of leadership. James Lankford, all he did is change his mind on not certifying the election in the hours after the violent January 6th insurrection and now he's a target of his own party in his state.

Is that GOP rescue plan toast?

CUPP: I think the fact that you and I can name those members on one hand is proof that it's not much of a movement. I don't want to minimize the courage it takes for those members to stand up and say the truth, but I don't think there is a ground swell of support. And I don't think the tide is turning for the party.

CPAC, the second one, is coming up this weekend. And if you look at the agenda and the folks that are being highlighted there, none of them are in this so-called moderate wing of the party, which really just says things that are true. I don't think -- I don't think they're going to have much support in the coming year as the GOP has decided to double down on the insanity going into the midterms.

SCIUTTO: It's remarkable, right? I mean it is truly remarkable. S.E. Cupp, I'm sure we'll keep talking about it. Thanks very much.

CUPP: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Biden is standing his ground on his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, even as the Taliban is quickly gaining ground there. We're going to have a live update from Afghanistan coming up.