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Record Number of Children Hospitalized for COVID; Zero Pediatric ICU Beds Left in Dallas County, Judge Says Child Has to Die for Bed to Free Up; Growing Pressure for Vaccine Authorization in Kids Under 12; U.S. Sending 3,000 Troops to Aid Evacuations as Afghanistan on Verge of Complete Taliban Takeover; Former Secretary of State Pompeo Blames Biden's "Weak Leadership" for Afghan Crisis; CDC Vaccine Advisers Recommend Third COVID-19 Dose to Certain Immunocompromised People. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 13:30   ET



MARK WALLACE, PRESIDENT & CEO, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, we are worried about that. We certainly see the surge occurring in this region of Texas, in Houston and in Harris County.

Fortunately, at Texas Children's Hospital, we've been anticipating and planning for this surge for weeks and months. And so our team is ready from a bed capacity standpoint and also a staffing standpoint.

The surge the judge was talking about in Dallas, it's really occurring here in Houston, in Harris County and Austin as well.

And so it's very serious. There's a limited number of ICU beds available in our state of Texas.

Fortunately, we had a few discharges last night. So we have a few vacancies at Texas Children's in our pedi-ICU.

But it's very serious. It cannot be overstated.

The story you heard from the judge is true also in Austin, San Antonio. Fortunately, we do have some beds, pedi-ICU beds at Texas Children's Hospital.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Given the state, they'll fill up quickly.

You're urging the FDA to approve the vaccine for kids as young as five. Why is this such an important step?

WALLACE: It's really important to get everyone vaccinated ultimately in the United States. And we've been working really hard at getting 12 to 15-year-olds vaccinated and 16 to 18-year-olds vaccinated.

We know that the FDA will grant emergency authority soon. It's under careful consideration by them.

Texas Children's Hospital, we've been participating in the trials and in the studies and submitting the data and the information.

But as 5 to 11-year-olds return to school, if they're unmasked and unvaccinated, that's a formula for those children getting COVID, ending up possibly at Texas Children's Hospital, maybe even one of our ICUs.

Pam, we want to prevent that. And so the best defense against COVID- 19, whether it's for children or adults or adolescents, is everybody needs to get vaccinated. And then we need to wear masks also.

BROWN: But the reality is it hasn't been approved for kids under 12.

What is your reaction to the battle in the state over kids and masking in schools?

WALLACE: Well, we want to do what's right and what's in the best interest of public health for children and adolescents.

And we think requiring that children as they return to school as well as adolescents wear masks, we think that makes sense.

While we have low vaccination rates in the 12 to 15-year population in Harris County, the vaccination are is only about 26 percent, we think it's really important that as children as adolescents, teenagers return to school, they need to be wearing a mask.

If not, the surge that we're seeing today is going to get worse. It's going to exacerbate. We're going to see more cases.

And we're going to see more adolescents and children end up in our emergency rooms and our beds in pedi-ICUs. We don't want that.

BROWN: And a tool to fight that is the vaccines.

But I want to ask you the FDA has said that they're waiting for the emergency authorization for kids under 12 because they're still doing the clinical trials and there has to be a certain amount of time.

What do you say to that?

WALLACE: Well, we've been participating in the clinical trials. And just recently, we submitted additional data to the FDA, regarding the experience of the trials that Texas Children's is participating in.

They need to expedite this as much as possible. And I know that they are.

But we're heading toward a disaster in so many regions of the United States, particularly the southern region, and, to some degree, even in the state of Texas.

So as quickly as possible, as kids are returning to school in that age range, 5 to 11, we need to be able to get them vaccinated through the emergency authority. It's very important.

BROWN: OK. Mark Wallace, thank you so much for your time today.

WALLACE: Thank you.


BROWN: President Biden isn't second guessing his decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan. At least not publicly. But will the nation's unraveling have a long-lasting impact on his foreign policy legacy?


BROWN: Taliban fighters overrun more cities in Afghanistan, forcing the White House to scramble 3,000 U.S. troops to Kabul. Their mission, fortify the U.S. embassy and help with the evacuation of Americans and other personnel.

Joining me now CNN national security commentator, Mike Rogers, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and CNN military analyst, Cedric Leighton, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel.

Great to see you both, gentlemen.

Congressman, to start with you, for many Americans, Afghanistan is a world away and far removed. Why should Americans care? What's at stake here?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: If you remember, the reason we're in Afghanistan in the first place is because the Taliban, the same Taliban that's encroaching now, approaching Kabul, is the same place that allowed al Qaeda to train, finance, recruit, unmolested by any international force.


And because of that, that's where all the planning took place. And again, the recruiting that eventually led to our 9/11 attack.

And if you look at the territory that the Taliban is taking over, it's regaining much of the territory that was lost to them when the United States showed up.

And now the way this was laid out is just imposing sheer panic amongst people that we, in the United States, said -- women of Afghanistan, if you come out and participate in society, you'll make Afghanistan better, it will be more stable, and we'll be here to protect you.

We walked away from all of that. That's what you're seeing, this panic.

The reason the troops are protecting the evacuation is because they're afraid of not only Afghans trying to get to the airport, but they're afraid of the Taliban overrunning the airports. This is not going to be pretty. And I really hope they adjust their

schedule here pretty quickly if they're going to get ahead of this really huge humanitarian crisis in the making.


You know, Colonel, you can't ignore the fact that the U.S. has been drawing down troops that have been stationed in Afghanistan. And now we're sending in troops to help with the evacuation of personnel on the ground in the U.S. embassy.

Just yesterday, we reported the time frame for Kabul's collapse was 30 to 60 days. That now seems wildly optimistic.

How long do you think before the Taliban could capture the capitol?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's going to be within 15 days. Maybe even less.

And that's going to be a significant factor when it comes to not only planning for the troops that we're sending there but it's also going to be a significant factor for all the Afghan translators who served us so well for the most part during the last 20 years.

It's going to be chaos, as Congressman Rogers mentioned.

BROWN: And I want to talk about, Congressman, the Pentagon saying the U.S. helped raise an army and police force that numbered over 300,000 in Afghanistan.

The question is why aren't the Afghan forces better able to effectively combat the Taliban?

ROGERS: And this is one of my personal pet peeves. I get that statement.

The U.S., when they show up in a country like Afghanistan, who has very poor educational system and poor training, has a really long road to go to get a professional military.

So what the U.S. military affords those troops when we're there and training them and participating in missions with our Special Forces and many times with their Special Force, it gives them command and control.

We give them logistics. We give them medivac, all the things you need for soldiers to be impactful and successful on the battlefield, including taking losses and knowing they'll be picked up off the battlefield. Really, really important to a fighting army.

And what we did was we basically said, yes, we've got our Special Forces trained.

And by the way, they are courageous fighters in Afghanistan today. We even have cases where they're running out of ammunition fighting the bad guys. And once they're taken captive after that point, summarily executed by the Taliban.

These aren't people who are running away. They're fighting. But without that support, logistical support and other things, they're collapsing sooner than later.

And what happens is it feeds on itself. Once that one unit goes, everybody understands. guess what, nobody is bringing us the beans and bullets. Nobody is evacuating us. We're here on our own.

It kind of feeds on itself on the psyche of the battlefield. That's exactly what you're seeing happen.

And to the colonel's point, it's not just interpreters. Afghans who participated in what would be a democracy in Kabul, you know, is poor some days as it looks, will also be treated the way you're seeing civilians treated all over the country today.

Girls won't be allowed to go to school. That's what they've said. That's what they're practicing in areas where they are.

Women who have participated, including members of parliament, you can only imagine what's going to happen to them. They've been gouging eyes and cutting ears.

This is not a nice, polite conversation to be having because the Taliban is not acting that way.

And we have a responsibility to the people, that we told that we're going to get through this, to get through this, and we're not. We have turned our back.

And this saddens me and maddens me more than anything I've seen in the last 20 years, aside from the terrorist attacks on the United States, on how the United States is reacting.

We should all be ashamed of what we're doing in Afghanistan today.

BROWN: Colonel, I want to bring you in to get your thoughts on this.

Former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, says President Biden's weak leadership has fueled this crisis.

House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, says the president has botched the process and owes the public answers.

I spoke to one senior Biden administration official who said to me, "President Trump was president for four years. If he thought he could safely drawdown troops, he had the opportunity to do that."


So what were the other options here? What would Donald Trump have done differently?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think you have to go back to not only President Trump but also President Obama in this particular case. One option would have been to declare victory after bin Laden had been

killed and just change the nature of the mission and not make it a war mission but a train-and-equip mission.

That would have changed the nomenclature. We would have had a presence there and we would probably continue to have a presence there under that kind of a situation.

The other thing that could have happened is a much tougher stance in the negotiations.

The negotiations that are going on in Qatar are a continuation of the negotiations that we had under the Trump administration.

That administration reached an agreement with the Taliban that is basically unenforceable.

And it's pretty clear that the agreement that was reached, which the Biden administration is trying to follow, is one which the Taliban is going to break.

And that's one of the areas where we really have to be very careful what we do diplomatically, because what it does is it really destroys the efforts of the military over the past 20 years.

That's not a good look at all for the United States.

BROWN: All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, Mike Rogers, thank you both for your perspective on this unfolding issue in Afghanistan.

ROGERS: Thanks.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Pam. Thank you.

BROWN: Are scorching temperatures burning a hole in your wallet? If you're noticing that grocery store bill is higher these days, extreme weather is probably to blame.



BROWN: This just in. President Joe Biden's new eviction moratorium will stay in effect for now. A federal judge says she's bound by a previous appeals court ruling and rejected an effort by landlords to undo the protections.

The White House acted on its own when the last moratorium expired two weeks ago extending the moratorium through October.

But the legal battle is likely not over. Challengers can now ask the appellate court to rule in their favor.

And we have some breaking news out of the CDC now. And a panel of CDC advisors now recommending some people who have weakened immune systems should get an additional or third COVID-19 vaccine dose. CNN chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, joins us now.

How significant is this, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's significant because I think for people who have had these types of conditions, the concern has been for some time that they did not have the same level of protection from these vaccines and others and they're more at risk because they have a weakened immune system.

So, that's been a problem.

Pamela, as you know, we talked about this yesterday, if you are a immunocompromised person who received the vaccine versus someone with a healthy immune system who received the vaccine, the immunocompromised folks were almost 500 times more likely to end up in the hospital.

So this is a population of people that they were talking about for some time.

And if you look at hospitalizations overall and say, who are the COVID patients in the hospital, mostly unvaccinated, as we know.

But as far as the vaccinated goes, they were more likely to be immunocompromised. You could see some of the statistics here in the data that they were looking at.

They knew that, again, of the breakthrough infections, many of them were occurring in immunocompromised people.

Lower vaccine effectiveness overall, given that so many more people are being hospitalized, and really trying to figure out how much the vaccine efficacy dropped for them versus the general population.

You can see as low as 59 percent if you have an immunocompromised condition versus up to 94 percent protection in the general population.

So, for all these reasons, I think this is a big deal for them.

Couple of specifics here because these come up. They did define a little bit more clearly what they're calling immunocompromised. Moderate and severe immunocompromised.

And if we have the list, we can put it up.

But people who have had organ transplants, people who have recently or are currently taking chemotherapy for cancer, people who may take other types of medications which suppress their immune system. There's a whole list.

If you are immunocompromised, you probably know it. But that list will be available so you can cross check.

But not things like heart disease and diabetes. Sometimes those are thought of as conditions that can compromise your immune system. But this committee said, no, we're talking about severe or at least moderately severe immunocompromised.

BROWN: So, why wouldn't this include those people with heart disease or other issues that would lower the effectiveness of their immune system?

And just to be clear, this doesn't impact people with autoimmune diseases, correct? I get that question a lot from viewers.

GUPTA: Well, second question first. It may affect people with autoimmune disease if they are on a class of medications that they've listed here.

And I don't know if we have it but we can put it up. If not, it's going to be on our Web site.


GUPTA: But types of steroids may lower your immune system. There are certain medications known as TNF blockers. Again, people who take these medications are going to know this very well.


But they are told when they are prescribed these medications, oftentimes, as you point, out for autoimmune conditions, they are told this medication will dampen your immune system.

With autoimmune, the point is your immune system may be overreacting so you take medications to slow down that reaction but that may affect your ability to respond to the vaccine. So they may be included.

As far as heart disease and diabetes, I think the way to look at it is this. Certainly, that makes people more vulnerable.

But what they're focusing on here is, if someone had a weak enough immune system that they weren't generating antibodies in the first place to the first two shots, so weren't generating enough antibodies, that's who they're really focused on.

It's not to say that there aren't other vulnerable populations either because of disease or age, as you well know.

But at this time, they're saying, this is who we're most concerned about, people who could not generate enough protection from the vaccine in the first place.

BROWN: OK. Sanjay, thank you so much.

And thank you all for joining me.

The news continues next with Victor Blackwell.



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off.

The Taliban's rapid takeover continues. They are making some key gains across Afghanistan. At least 17 now, at least 17 of the nation's provincial capitals have been overrun.