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New Vaccine Chief Says, early date suggests by end of the year; . Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 13:00   ET



ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Today, you're announcing the team that can get it done. Dr. Slaoui is arguably the world's most experienced and successful vaccine developer, responsible for some of the major recent breakthroughs in vaccines.

General Perna oversees one of the world's largest logistics and supply chain operations, the one that keeps the army running.

Three highly accomplished career HHS scientists will oversee each area of Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Peter Marks of FDA for vaccines, Dr. Janet Woodcock of FDA for therapeutics and Dr. Bruce Tromberg of NIH for diagnostics. This is truly a dream team.

We started work on each of these areas in January and Congress has provided nearly $10 billion explicitly for this kind of research and development effort. Operation Warp Speed will integrate existing efforts that are coordinating vaccines, therapeutics and countermeasure development, including NIH's active and RADx initiatives.

This week HHS and DOD already announced new contracts to manufacture hundreds of millions of needles and syringes here in America for distributing an eventual vaccine.

Finally, the president's efforts will ensure not only that we get vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics faster, but that we get large donations of the eventual products so they're affordable for the American people.

So, thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to all of the American scientists and inventors at HHS, at DOD and elsewhere who are hard at work already. And I really want to express my personal appreciation to Secretary Esper and Department of Defense, because this partnership is what's going to make this truly a historic endeavor. Thank you.

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership of this bold and historic initiative. The Department of Defense is excited and committed to working closely with our partners at HHS, across the government and in the private sector to accomplish the mission we have been given.

Winning matters and we will deliver by the end of this year a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and our partners abroad.

The Department of Defense has been in this fight since day one, going back to January. We stayed ahead of the curve every step of the way. And today, on America's streets across the nation, over 60,000 service members from all branches of the service are still out there, whether it's doctors and nurses and hospitals, whether it's National Guard on the streets of America or the Corps of Engineers continue to build out capacity in America's hospitals.

We are there and we will be there, Mr. President. And we look forward to this next greatest phase of this fight against the coronavirus.

We are all in then, we're all in now and we will be all in in the future and we will deliver on time, bring you the full weight, to bear the full weight of the Department of Defense, all of our first class, world class researchers and scientists, our ability to manage logistics at scale and our great distributional capabilities. We will deliver, we will win this fight, and, Mr. President, thank you again for all that you have done. We will get the job done.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Thank you. I know you will.

Any questions, please? Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, you said vaccine or no vaccine (INAUDIBLE), what did you mean by that?

TRUMP: We think we're going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future. And if we do, we're going to really be a big step ahead. And if we don't, we are going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it will go away at some point, it will go away. It may flare up and it may not flare up. We'll have to see what happens. But if it does flare up, we're going to put out the fire and we'll put it out quickly and efficiently. We have learned a lot.

Steve, you have a question?

REPORTER: We've heard that the vaccine typically would take 12 to 18 months to be available. How can you do it in a speedier fashion? What makes you think this will work?

TRUMP: Well, they started actually, I guess you heard, in January, in early January, and they have been working on it. I know so many and private companies have been working on it. The government have been working on it. So we have got the time because we've put in a very -- and they've literally been working 24 hours a day. So we've got the time and we hope to be able to do something by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

But, again, it's not solely vaccine-based. Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. So I don't want people to think that this is all dependent on vaccine but a vaccine would be a tremendous thing.

And I will tell you, therapeutically or therapeutics, what's going on there is equally as impressive. We have some things happening.


We have the remdesivir from Gilead. We have other things that are very good. I think a lot is happening therapeutically. I can't say it's, relatively speaking, equal to what's going on with vaccines, but I think it's doing very well, very well. So therapeutics are a big factor.

Yes, please?

REPORTER: Is there a global competition to develop this vaccine, like if France develops it first, will they share it with us?

TRUMP: Yes. And we have that very well worked out. Whoever gets it is going to be proud to give it and develop it and they develop it and we'll see what happens. We've got countries that are allies, that are -- we have some countries, frankly, that aren't allies where we are working very closely together.

So we're working together with many different countries and, again, we have no ego, whoever gets it, we think it is great, we are going to work with them, they're going to work with us. Likewise, if we get it, we're going to be working with them. So it's very important. It's a very good question, actually.

Yes, please?

REPORTER: Mr. President, what do you say to those business owners and other people who are really questioning the guidance of the CDC put out last night? There was a concern it would be overly-prescriptive, not as a concern it's not prescriptive enough. What are business owners to do?

TRUMP: Well, I thought the guidance was very good. I've heard good reviews on the guidance and the media will never be satisfied. If we give you more description, that would be no good. If we gave you less, that would be no good. But I thought it was very good and I've heard a lot of good things.

Go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have a problem or any concerns -- do you have any concerns about the Abbott tests given some of the new numbers that have come out and --

TRUMP: No, Abbott is a great -- it's a great test. It's a very a quick test and it can always be rapidly double checked if you are testing positive or negative, it can always be double checked. But it is a very good test, very portable, very quick, okay?

REPORTER: What happens if China is the country that develops the vaccine? What happens if it's China? Will the U.S. still have access to that vaccine?

TRUMP: I would say the answer to that would be yes. I would say the answer would be yes. Yes, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Do you mean a slowly approved vaccine for everyone or --

TRUMP: Excuse me, you're going to have remove it. We can't hear through here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you mean a fully approved vaccine for the entire general public or a partially approved vaccine for emergency use?

Sorry, let me repeat that now that I'm closer to the mic. Do you mean a fully approved vaccine for everyone, the full public or a partially approved vaccine with emergency use?

TRUMP: No. We are looking for a full vaccine for everyone that wants to get it. Not everybody is going to want to get it. But we're looking at a full vaccine. Is that a correct statement?

AZAR: So the answer is yes. We are working for a fully approved vaccine, but we'll use the tools we have, for instance, emergency use authorization as appropriate, we use all of our regulatory tools to bring vaccine available for the entire American population by January.

COLLINS: Okay. And then, Mr. President, can you just clarify why are some of you wearing a mask and why are some of you not wearing a mask?

TRUMP: We have all been tested. I've been tested. We've all been tested. And we are quite a distance away and we're outdoors. So I told them -- I gave them the option they could wear it or not. So you can blame it on me but I gave them the option. We could wear it or not.

Yes, please.

REPORTER: Would the U.S vaccine be available to the rest of the world at an affordable rate, at a low cost?

TRUMP: The last thing anybody is looking for is profit in terms of what we are doing. Every company, they want to get it out. We've had that. We've had a great experience on remdesivir. We've had a great experience on everything we have done.

People are looking to come up with the answer. They're not looking in -- typically, they're saying, oh, how much am I going to make? How much? They really have been -- there has been a great spirit on this. They want to get to the bottom of it, and I think we'll be able to do that.

REPORTER: Mr. President, the Indian community is appreciating your help in fighting the coronavirus. What is the (INAUDIBLE) to those 4 million Indian-Americans here?

TRUMP: So India has been so great. And as you know, your prime minister has been a very good friend of mine. I just got back a short while ago from India recently. And we are working very much with India too, and we have tremendous Indian population in the United States and many of the people you are talking about are working on the vaccine too, great scientists and researchers, yes. We are working very closely also with India, correct. And say hello to your prime minister.

Yes, please, go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. What steps, if any, is your administration taking to ensure that the communities and the states that are hardest hit will have first access to the vaccine? Have these discussions been had or are there any --

TRUMP: Yes. I think we have done a good job with that. Certain areas have been hit very hard, New York, New Jersey, et cetera, et cetera, working close with the governors.


We've worked with all of the governors. We've made a lot of people look very good with what've done on ventilators, with what we've done on testing. We're working with all of the governors.

We just sent a big transit package to New Jersey. I just spoke to the governor of New Jersey, who's a terrific person, by the way, I have to tell you. And I just told him, a lot of money is coming your way for the transit. And also I spoke with the governor of New York, Governor Cuomo, we just had a conversation yesterday. We are sending them a lot of transportation money. So it's important.

But we've had a very good relationship working with all of the states regardless, all of the states. And if we do get fortunate enough and I think we're skilled enough and fortunate enough to have a vaccine, it will get out fairly and quickly.

REPORTER: Do you foresee that states that are hardest hit will have first dibs? So will like New York and New Jersey have --

TRUMP: I think it makes sense, perhaps. Perhaps it does. But I would say, probably, but I think they're all going to get well distributed. If you remember, when we started, we had no ventilators. We had to make them and we became a major manufacture of ventilators. Now, we are helping countries all over the world with ventilators. We're sending them to many countries all over the world.

When we started, we didn't have ventilators. I inherited nothing. I inherited practically nothing from the previous administration, unfortunately.

Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, it has been three months since you signed the China trade deal. Between what's happened with coronavirus and the lagging agricultural purchases, are you, at any point, considering re- imposing additional tariffs on China or tearing up the deal in any other way?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to talk about it. I can say, China is buying a lot of our products. But the trade deal, the ink was barely dry when this came in from China. So it's not like we are thrilled.

Okay, go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, can I ask one more?


REPORTER: I am wondering if you are standing by the nomination of Michael Pack to lead the Voice of America after the news (ph) that the D.C. attorney general --

TRUMP: Well, I don't know what happened. I know that Voice of America is running a terrible manner, terrible. They're not the voice of America. They're the opposite of the Voice of America. And we have a man who's very good. I don't know if he's in the nominating process, but I'll have to check that out.

Yes, please.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. If public confidence is the main thing of getting people back to work and back to schools and so on, this is even possible without a vaccine? How would it possible without a vaccine, public confidence?

TRUMP: Well, I think a very big factor, frankly, is that very few people are -- we read about all the very sad, very tragic, I have lost friends, many of us lost friends, we read about that and we see that, and that's what the news covers.

But a very, very -- it's a small percentage. It's a very, very small percent. I say it all the time. It's a tiny percentage, the vast majority, many people don't even know they have it. They have it or they have sniffles or they have a minor sign. And they recover, not only recover, they probably have immunity, whether it's short-term or long-term. But they have probably immunity.

And I think people have to understand that. That's why I think schools should be back in the fall. I think that lots of things should happen. I don't think you should have 70-year-old teachers back yet. They should wait until everything is gone. I don't think you should have a professor that's 65 and has diabetes or has a bad heart back necessarily or somebody that's older than that.

But we want to see our schools back. We want to see our country start to work again. We created the greatest economy in the history of the world and we are going to do it again. And you're going to see that next year and it's going to start -- you'll start to see it in the fourth quarter or maybe even before that.


REPORTER: Mr. President, are you at all concerned about children or teachers who are in the school bringing it home to their families, to their spouses, to their grandparents?

TRUMP: I'm concerned about everything. And I'm also concerned about our country. Our country has to get back.

And, you know, what you are talking is when you are doing what we did with the shutdown, that causes death also. It causes massive depression. It causes drugs. It causes suicide. It causes a lot of problems. You know our country has to get back to work again and you see that just looking and reading everything that's happening. Our people want to get back. They want to get back.

REPORTER: Sir, do you have a plan to prevent the spread if you reopen the schools?

TRUMP: We do. We do have a great plan to prevent the spread. But that doesn't not mean we're going to close our country for five years, okay? Not going to happen.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the schools have a plan?

COLLINS: The current death toll is about 86,000.

TRUMP: At, current it's about 86,000, yes.

COLLINS: Do you think that's accurate or do you think it's higher than that?

TRUMP: I don't -- or lower than that. I don't know. I don't know. Those are the numbers that are being reported. I assume they're correct.

Unlike other countries, I mean, you have some countries -- obviously, you have some that are very obviously ridiculous.


But our numbers are accurate numbers. We don't do anything with the numbers one way or another. Whatever it is, that's what we do. We take the numbers as reported.

COLLINS: Do you have any indication that they could be lower than that?

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. If they were, I would be very happy if they were lower. I'd like to see numbers lower. I'd like to see no death at all. One death is too many. This should have never happened. This came from China. It should have been stopped in China before it got out in the world. We have 186 that's been updated this morning, 186 countries that are affected.

And each country that's affected is the same thing. Russia now is badly affected. France is badly affected. You look at what each country and you can say, affected, or you can say, infected, either way you want to put it. But you look at these countries, look at Italy and you look at Spain and you look at all of these great countries in my cases how they've had a fight through this. It is a terrible thing that happened. It could have been stopped at the source. It should have been stopped right at the source but it wasn't.

Thank you all very much, we appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: You've been listening there to the president announcing the new leaders of the efforts for a coronavirus vaccine. And the big headlines there is that one of those leaders says he's seen early data that doses could be ready by the end of the year. The president saying the vaccine doses will be available for the entire public by the end of the year. That is a huge promise.

So let's bring in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And, Sanjay, before I have you comment on this, I just want to address one thing, which was, I don't recall hearing a rose garden event that sounded like a soccer game but the president had said that truckers were protesting -- not protesting, but they were there honking in support of him now far from the White House. I just want to fact check that. That's not actually true.

Anyone who's gone down on Constitution Avenue will see that seen truckers are protesting for a myriad of reasons. But, basically, they're really taken a hit financially. They haven't seen a carve-out yet. I suspect that could change though if the president wants to continue having rose gardens that do not sound like soccer games.

So this is, bottom line, a huge promise, Sanjay. I mean, is this -- is he overpromising? Is this possible?

All right, we're going to try -- let's try to work on -- I can't hear Sanjay, actually. Is that me or is that --


KEILAR: Okay, I'm going to go -- yes, Sanjay. I have you now. Okay, perfect. Is it --

GUPTA: Sorry about that.

KEILAR: Look, we all want this. No, that's okay. We all want this to be true, right? This would be amazing. It would feel like a miracle. Is it possible?

GUPTA: Well, I think that is the point. I mean, we all want this. This makes this an incredibly, I think, tough story to cover in some ways and I'm so curious to see what Peter Hotez thinks, obviously, because he works on these vaccines. But this doesn't fit with any timeline that we've ever heard before with regard to vaccines. Typically, you are talking about many years, not many months with something like this.

You clearly are hearing from some very impressive individuals who have a long history of vaccine developments. Moncef Slaoui, who has been in a company that was responsible for making ten vaccines. We were just sort of looking some of this up, even as he was speaking.

The timeline on these vaccines, though, several years, typically, from actual development all the way through FDA approval. So the idea now that we're talking by the end of the year, and Kaitlan Collins asked this question, by the end of the year, a possibly fully approved vaccine, not just one that has an emergency use authorization that's healthcare workers, but a fully approved vaccine. That is the fastest time timeline we have heard, period, in this discussion.

I will point out, If you watched the group at the stage at that point, you saw people clapping when Moncef said that, including Dr. Fauci clapping, that there could be a fully approved vaccine by the end of the year. So, again, obviously, something that everybody wants, but I think our job is to ask questions and have appropriate amount of skepticism about that just given that it's never been done.

The types of platforms that we're talking about, and, again, no one knows this better than Peter Hotez, some of these platforms have never been done before. The type of early data that I am pretty sure Moncef was talking about, Dr. Slaoui was related to the Moderna messenger RNA platform.

So instead of actually using virus to make a vaccine, you're actually using a blueprint of part of the virus, you're putting that into the body, and then the body basically makes a lot of that blueprint and creates the antibodies that way. It hasn't been done before, intriguing idea.

They had a head start because of SARS and MERS so they could be further along.


But by the end of the year, that would be fantastic if it happens. But, boy, it raises a lot of questions.

KEILAR: And, Dr. Hotez, you are working on a vaccine. What do you think about the possibility of this?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, it was a very interesting press event. Look, I think it is really important to differentiate when we might have some vaccines manufactured or as Dr. Fauci says manufactured at risk, meaning we don't know if the vaccines are going to work but we'll have to scale-up manufacture versus actually having a vaccine that we know actually works and is safe.

So when we heard, for instance, of the first vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, the mRNA vaccine, that was in reference of having doses manufactured. I think that's potentially believable. The problem is the White House continually couches the whole vaccine issue and manufacturing terms.

They used the same language that they would use for ventilators or for diagnostic kits that it's a manufacturing problem. There are manufacturing issues, certainly, but, overwhelmingly, to be able to test that the vaccine is both safe and effective.

And as far as I understand, phase three clinical trials on the first vaccine, the Moderna one, won't even begin until the end of the summer. Others will follow. It will take at least a year, maybe longer to get sufficient amount of efficacy data, that is data that shows it actually works, and safety data to know that it's safe. I don't see a path by which any vaccine is licensed or whether it's emergency use otherwise until the third quarter of 2021.

So I understand that it could be manufactured by the -- several vaccines can be manufactured by the end of the year. I just don't see how you collect enough safety efficacy data to say that we can have a vaccine for generally use by the end of the year.

Potentially, we'll continue phase three trials, expand the phase three trials for specific populations, such as healthcare providers and others by the end of the year but not a fully licensed vaccine. I don't understand how that happens.

KEILAR: And, Sanjay, I know you may have specific questions for Dr. Hotez that we may as laypeople not be thinking of. What's on your mind?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, Dr. Hotez, so they're talking about these different types of vaccines. We typically think of giving a little piece of the virus at somebody, that's what actually stimulates the antibody response inside the body. With these, I guess, messenger RNA vaccines, it is a totally different thing.

I hear the language and the optimism changing around this over the last couple of months, maybe even with yourself. Because when I know that when you and I have talked, you said this is typically a year's long process.

And now, even Dr. Fauci, he was applauding the idea by the end of the year, has something changed? Have we learned something new over the last several weeks that has created this new level of optimism or is this just the pressure to try and get this done? Is there something scientifically that has made a difference here?

HOTEZ: Not that I know about scientifically. And then remember how this works. The actual science to make a vaccine against COVID-19 is not that complicated. If you've ever looked at what a cartoon of the coronavirus looks like, it looks like a donut with a piece of RNA stuffed in this -- the creamy filling, and then you've got a bunch spikes emanating all around it. And those spikes are what dock (ph) with the host receptor and our tissues.

So it's all about creating an immune response against the spike protein. That's how our vaccine works. That's who all the other vaccine works. The question is going to be, the vaccines that work well in laboratory animals may or may not be the best vaccines for humans. And you don't know until you do the clinical testing.

So we are using a recombinant protein vaccine approach that's the same as the hepatitis B vaccine approach. Others are using inactivated virus or a virus-vectored vaccines or RNA or DNA vaccines.

And I think it is great that all of these new technologies are going to be used to see which vaccine, which of them creates immune response against the spike protein. And they're all moving through clinical trials and having all those extra shots on goal, no question, will accelerate the timeline.

And also this idea of manufacturing at risk, making lots of these different vaccines ready to go by the end of year, that will accelerate the timeline.

The one thing that's really -- I don't see a way compress that, is to collect all of the data that you need to the FDA and CBER. And we heard Peter Marks that CBER is going to be helping to head that. He's a very seasoned guy when it comes to vaccines, as is Moncef Slaoui, both excellent scientists, I don't see we have enough data in hand as we go through the clinical trials to have it out by the end of the year.


That would -- yes, it is. Let's say it is ready in the third quarter of 2021. That would break all records as is by a couple of years.

But that's the very confusing part about all of this. So a lot of the language that you are hearing seems to be around scale and manufacture and I think that could be clarified a little bit better. But to have a vaccine that you know works and safe, you know, I don't see a path by which it can happen that quickly by within year 2020.

KEILAR: And, Elizabeth, I suspect as you have been talking to a lot of people involved in the search for the vaccine that the consensus opinion is the one we just heard from Dr. Hotez.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRSEPONDENT: Yes, for sure, Brianna. And I think it's these situations, it's so important to look at exactly what someone has said.

So when we look at what Dr. Slaoui said, he didn't say we'll a vaccine on the market by the end of this year. He said that he is confident that we'll be able to deliver a few hundred doses by the end of the year. As Dr. Hotez just pointed out, those are two different things. You can manufacture and manufacture and manufacture, and you'll have them.

The doses will be sitting there and ready to use. But will you have tested thoroughly enough to know that it is safety and effective. There is a difference between having doses ready to go and being able to actually vaccinate the American public.

I was listening to see if Dr. Slaoui would say, by the end of the year, we can start a vaccination program in the United States vaccinate people who want to get vaccinated. That is not what he said. And I think that's super important that we pay attention to his exact words.

KEILAR: Yes, very good point. And, Sanjay, Kaitlan Collins asked the president whether he thinks the U.S. death toll is accurate. This, of course, comes on the heels of reports that he's privately questioning the numbers. He seemed unsure. What did you make of his answer?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, this is the sort of back and forth conversations that's been happening for some time. There were these death toll, confirmed death toll numbers.

Obviously, there was a Yale study that came out and said, look, we are probably undercounting the number of people who have died in part because of inadequate testing initially and in places like New York, because people may not have been able to get to the hospital. People may have died at their homes. They look at excess death numbers, comparing the number of deaths over a period of time, this year as compared to years past, and they find that it's higher. It's tough to know, Brianna.

But, typically, what happens in these situations is that the numbers are undercounted as a result of those factors, not overcounted.

So I will be honest, Brianna. I don't know what difference or how big a difference it makes. It obviously makes a difference to the families out there who think my family died of coronavirus, they are counted towards that. But in terms of what we need to do going forward, I think the mission is clear.

I think also another question Kaitlan Collins asked to President Trump, again, about this vaccine is really important. She said, does this mean a fully approved vaccine by the end of the year? And it was a very good question. And, again, the president said yes to that, which is a much more aggressive timeline than we have heard in the past.

Now, it was different, as Elizabeth mentioned what Dr. Slaoui said. We are probably going to get more clarity on what this means. But there's quite no more important question right now, certainly in the medical world, maybe the entire world, than this issue of that vaccine and that timeline right now.

KEILAR: It was interesting, Elizabeth, to see who was wearing masks and who was not wearing masks. And at one point, the president was asked about that and he said he gave everyone the option. Wear a mask if you want, don't wear a mask if you don't.

What did you make of that and what's the effect of some people? And, look, we have to be clear, there are some experts there on the hillside of things who've had some coronavirus exposure who have been doing some kind of a little bit of limited quarantining, I guess, you can say. But what do you make of the kind of mixed nature of the mask wearing?

COHEN: It is an interesting question. I mean, really, it should buy one or the other, right, either the situation is such that people ought to be wearing masks or it's not.

It will tell you that we get to make a decision, right? And we get to see Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing a mask, we get to see President Trump not wearing a mask. You can think what would I do if I were in that situation? Would I do what Dr. Fauci is doing or what would I do if President Trump is doing? I think for many people. That answer is quite clear.

I want to get back to the vaccine timing for one minute, Brianna, because I think that this is -- during this pandemic, we have to be able to hold two seemingly contrasting points of view in our head. Back in January, speaking of Dr. Fauci, January is when he said, 12 to 18 months for a vaccine. So is it possible by the end of year? Sure. That's on the shorter end of what he said. Is it probably? Everyone I've spoken to has said, no, we don't think it's probably.


So it's possible that it could happen. It seems probable that it won't. But I think we don't have to think of this in a black and white way.