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Possible Vaccine Side Effects and Failures; Economic Recovery May Be Slow; Louisiana's St. John Parish Has Highest Coronavirus Death Rate. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Good. I spoke to Melinda Gates last week, and the Gates Foundation is funding part of this effort, and I asked her specifically about this trial through Inovio, and she said that it is -- it is promising, that's her word.

One thing that I find so interesting is that your trial does not actually include any live COVID-19 virus. So then how does it work?

JOHN E. ERVIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH: Well, most vaccines that we do nowadays do not contain live viruses. But what they do is, they have the DNA, genetic code that is found on the cell wall of the virus, so that when we inject this into the human host, the immune system recognizes that DNA code as a foreign object or foreign invader, develops antibodies against that DNA code.

Therefore, when the real thing comes along, when the virus comes along with that same DNA code, we have antibodies that are able to neutralize that virus and basically then prevent the infection from occurring.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the unknowns here and some of the risks. Because I know that there is something called disease enhancement, and that is where patients' immune system actually can respond negatively to a vaccine. What do we know about that in this study?

ERVIN: Well, we don't know anything about anything in this study, and that's why we're doing the trial. So this is a theoretical consideration that I think that, in the consent form, is discussed. I've never seen this particular thing happen with any of the hundred vaccine trials that we do.

The inflammation that is occurring as a result of the vaccine is the same inflammation that's fighting and killing off the virus. Potentially, that inflammation could cause some problems with more inflammation in the lung tissue, but I think it's a theoretical consideration, one that we haven't seen in any of the hundred vaccine trials that we do.

HARLOW: OK.

ERVIN: And I think as everybody's aware, that vaccines are basically given -- 10 of them -- to our children in their first year of life.

HARLOW: Yes.

ERVIN: So I think this is a theoretical concern that I'm not too worried about.

HARLOW: I take my four-year-old tomorrow, for more vaccines.

ERVIN: Yes.

HARLOW: Final question is this. You mentioned at the top, there are areas where we as a society just haven't been successful in terms of AIDS or RSV with vaccines. Do you have any question as to whether or not a vaccine can -- a successful, foolproof vaccine can be created in the next year to 18 months for coronavirus?

ERVIN: It's the $100,000 question -- $100 million question is, will this virus be more like the smallpox virus and not change? Will it be more like the flu virus, where maybe every several years, we have to consider a change? Or will it be like the RSV virus and the AIDS virus that are constantly mutating, and therefore a vaccine will not be significantly effective?

We certainly hope that we're dealing, like the other coronaviruses, with one that won't continue to change. We've had MERS and we've had SARS outbreaks that were similar viruses, where we -- where that wasn't the case. So gosh help us if this is one that is going to constantly change and we are unable --

HARLOW: Yes.

ERVIN: -- to get a vaccine against.

HARLOW: Well, we all hope so.

ERVIN: I'm optimistic.

HARLOW: We know you are. We all hope so. Thank you to you and your entire team for this work. I'm so glad, so far, the signs are promising. Good luck, Doctor.

ERVIN: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Of course.

Tonight, tune in. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta hold another CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS." They'll be joined by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, along with Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, with more on how the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative is working to combat the virus, as well as Facebook. That's 8:00 Eastern, tonight on CNN.

[10:34:07]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, the economic effects, of course, just staggering. Another 5.2 million Americans -- perhaps some of you watching now -- filed for unemployment in just the last week. That makes a total -- shocking -- 22 million jobless claims in the last month, virtually all the jobs gained since the Great Recession of 2008-2009. What will it take to get the country back to business again?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: The bad news for working people in this country is just devastating. We learned this morning, 5.2 million more people filed for unemployment, just in the last week. That is a total of 22 million Americans who have filed jobless claims in the last month. Consumer spending -- as you'd expect -- also plunged. That, the biggest monthly drop since 1992.

HARLOW: Plus, the Small Business Administration loan program is about to run out of money, like today, within hours.

Let's talk about all of this. Anchor (ph) Julia Chatterley is with us, CNN Business lead writer Matt Egan joins us as well. Julia, if you could just start and walk us through the context here of what is now 22 million unemployment claims in just four weeks.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: I've come to dread these Thursdays. This is the economic reality check, I think, the devastation being caused purposely by the measures that we're taking to try and suppress the virus.

[10:40:05]

We're talking about 22 million people in the space of four weeks either losing their jobs, furloughed or simply frightened about the future of their job, and therefore claiming unemployment benefits. We're approaching the point, Poppy, where we've almost wiped out the job gains that we've seen since the financial crisis, so over the last 10 years, just in the space of four weeks. It's broad-based.

And the fear, despite the trend that you are seeing there, is that we're still not catching up with the amount of claims that the states are struggling to deal with. And we're not catching up to 23 million gig economy workers that are also struggling. So the likelihood, this devastation continues.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Big question, of course, is how many of those jobs come back, how many small businesses come back.

Just in the last couple minutes, I'm seeing that that money is out, the Paycheck Protection Program is tapped, they're not accepting any new applications. This is Congress, of course -- Matt, you know -- debates adding more money to this. I mean, that is the key, right? You know, is this aid enough and does it come quickly enough to keep small businesses from shuttering permanently.

MATTHEW EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: It's been amazing to see how quickly the Federal Reserve, the White House and Congress have acted to try to minimize the permanent economic harm that could happen here because of this health crisis. They don't want to see a wave of bankruptcies, they don't want to see a wave of foreclosures. And so that's why this relief to small businesses is so important.

But as you mentioned, they've already run out of funds and there's been all these implementation hiccups, which can be expected because of how quickly they've had to roll this out.

So it really is crucial that the government is able to get those funds that these small businesses need. Because if they don't, there could be permanent economic harm done here and it could take longer for the economy to recover.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: OK, Matt, let me -- I hate to be the pessimist here, but I just -- I think this recovery's going to look so different --

CHATTERLEY: Yes.

HARLOW: -- and you have some really important reporting on this. We just saw, you know, in the last few weeks, the biggest stock market rally we've seen in 87 years. Then the fall yesterday. And I think hearing from Governor Newsom of California for example, talking about the reality months down the road -- you go into a restaurant, you have a paper menu, you wear a mask, right? Going to stores is so different.

So do you think that Wall Street here has been underestimating the long-term fallout in spending that could be ahead for us?

EGAN: Perhaps. You know, the Dow was up 5,000 points in the span of 15 days, 29 percent gain, just incredible. Wall Street is clearly betting on a swift recovery. And the market is also relieved that the government is taking action to try to prevent a depression.

But that optimism doesn't really seem to match up with what we've heard from the governors, what we've heard from health experts and economists. They're saying that, you know, this idea of a V-shaped sharp recovery is probably too optimistic. It's probably going to be a choppier recovery until there is some sort of vaccine.

And that's because of all this uncertainty about a second wave of coronavirus infections, and whether or not social distancing will really be able to go away, or if it could come back. And as you mentioned, there are so many parts of the economy that won't be the same until there is a vaccine.

People are going to be reluctant to go out, do, you know, shopping malls, the restaurants, the baseball games, if they're even allowed to do those things, they may choose not to. And that is going to hinder any sort of recovery.

And so if there is a disappointment in terms of another spike of infections, a second wave, I do think that you could see the market suffer a pullback here.

SCIUTTO: We'll see, right? I mean, we'll see how quickly people change, and how quickly businesses come back. Julia Chatterley, Matthew Egan, thanks very much. [10:44:02]

Well, people in one small parish in Louisiana are dying of the coronavirus at really just an alarming rate. Now, environmentalists say they know what may be contributing to the tragedy there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: People in St. John Parish -- that's in Louisiana -- are dying of coronavirus at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. And now, some activists are wondering if the parish's large collection of chemical plants is partly to blame.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Ed Lavandera went to take a close look at what's happening in that small parish. Some environmentalists refer to it as "Cancer Alley" because of the pollution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In mid-March, Diane (ph) and Edward (ph) Jasmine attended church services led by their son in LaPlace, Louisiana. Pastor Antoine Jasmine noticed his parents looked ill that morning. A few days later, the couple ended up in the hospital as doctors confirmed they were both infected with coronavirus.

ANTOINE JASMINE, PASTOR: This is the last time saw them, was seated here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Last week, Pastor Jasmine was recording a sermon when he got the dreaded message.

JASMINE: I was preaching, and then I got the text, "Your father just passed." And I kept preaching, but --

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Two hours later, he got another message. His mother had also died.

JASMINE: If someone told me, Your parents are going to leave you, I would have not accepted that. It just was mind -- and still, today, it's still shocking.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Jasmines lived their whole lives in St. John the Baptist Parish, which sits along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It's home to a sprawling collection of chemical and industrial plants. The area has been at the center of battles over air pollution for decades. It's often called "Cancer Alley."

[10:50:15]

this tiny parish, with a population of about 45,000 people, has the country's highest per capita coronavirus death rate, according to a data analysis by "The New York Times:" 569 coronavirus cases have been reported in St. John's, and 47 people have died.

ROBERT TAYLOR JR., LEADER, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF ST. JOHN: We are dying at unprecedented numbers, right here in St. John.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): St. John Parish resident Robert Taylor leads a protest of environmental activists. They believe long-term exposure to the toxic air in their neighborhoods has made them even more vulnerable to dying from COVID-19.

TAYLOR: We're losing people. I mean, it is terrible. What is it going to take for people to stand up to this?

LAVANDERA: When you see the list of the counties that have the highest death rate, you know, and all of a sudden you see St. John at the top of this list, is that pretty shocking for you?

TAYLOR: I was shocked. The correlation (ph) is right (ph). We have a lot of people here who are ill. We are ill because we're under attack.

We must stand up to this.

GEORGE HANDY SR., CONCERNED CITIZENS OF ST. JOHN: If you breathe it in, these chemicals, every single day, it automatically affects your immune system. COVID attacks mostly people with low immune systems. Those are the ones that are dying.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Some say residents in the parish were slow to take social distancing seriously to keep the virus from spreading. It's also a parish with high rates of underlying health issues. Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig says more research is needed, that there is no definitive link between the chemical exposure and the high death rate in St. John Parish.

SUSAN HASSIG, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, TULANE UNIVERSITY: We don't know whether it's contributing two percent of the increased risk or 10 percent of the increased risk or maybe higher. We just don't have the information that we need at the present time to be able to make that kind of a statement.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Antoine Jasmine doesn't know how his parents' lifelong exposure to air pollution might have affected their battle with coronavirus, but the question will always linger. Ed Lavandera, CNN, LaPlace, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: What a story, Ed. Thank you.

Also this: Iranian boats speeding dangerously close to U.S. Navy American warships? How are officials responding?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: The U.S. Navy is accusing Iran of harassing American warships in the Arabian Sea. The Navy, releasing this video of what officials describe as dangerous and harassing approaches, claiming that one Iranian boat -- like that one there -- came within 10 yards of colliding with a U.S. ship.

HARLOW: Oh, wow. Ok, let's go to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr joins us this morning.

Ten yards?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Pretty darn close. And of course, the reason this is so concerning is that these are -- you can see there in the video -- large Navy warships moving through the water. They cannot stop quickly if one of those Iranian boats was to really make a move and there was concern about a collision, which at 10 yards there well would be. They can't stop that fast, and this is how you get miscalculation.

Really important to notice, I think, that the guns on the decks of these 11 small Iranian boats that surrounded six Navy and Coast Guard ships, their guns are uncovered but they are not pointed at the U.S. Navy ships. So this is harassment, very dangerous harassment.

And one of the reasons it's so concerning right now, of course, is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has been cautioning publicly that America's adversaries should not miscalculate and think that the U.S. or the U.S. military is unduly distracted by the coronavirus --

SCIUTTO: Right.

STARR: -- he is saying, you know, don't miscalculate, we're still out there and the routine military missions go on -- Poppy, Jim .

SCIUTTO: Quickly, the captain of the USS Roosevelt, of course, removed in the midst of all this. Is there any talk of bringing him back?

STARR: Well, the investigation now is done and earlier today, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he would keep an -- he would have to keep an open mind when the results of the investigation do come to him.

As far as we have been told by multiple sources, no decision has been made but as they say, all options are on the table -- Poppy, Jim.

SCIUTTO: That would be a notable turnaround. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thanks to Barbara.

Thanks to all of our for joining us today. We'll see you back here, of course, tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM continues with John King. That's coming up.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

[10:59:50]

The president today promised to introduce new federal guidelines aimed at getting the country back to work. The reason for the rush to reopen is obvious: Just look at the gut-punch economic numbers over the past month. Government data shows another 5.2 million Americans lost a job this week. That runs the total of U.S. workers put out of work by coronavirus disruption --