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Persuading the Unvaccinated; French COVID Restrictions; Interview with Ezra Klein; Interview with Michael Osterholm; Internal Document from CDC Revealing COVID as Contagious as Chickenpox. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 02, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Resistance and more compliance, as French President Macron lays down the law on COVID vaccines.
Politician Nathalie Loiseau joins me on the big gamble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am furious with myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I was not vaccinated.
AMANPOUR: In the United States, what if the unvaccinated can't be persuaded until it's too late? Journalist Ezra Klein joins us with that
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: The Delta variant in particular, it may be
just a few minutes of exposure before you get infected.
The important things to know about the Delta variant. Walter Isaacson hears from the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Also ahead, more twists and turns at the Olympics. Biles is back, while a better Russian athlete bolts.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Scientific fact states that, while the COVID Delta variant is surging the world over, the most vulnerable are, of course, the unvaccinated. Yet the
panic can overwhelm everyone and bring normalization to a grinding halt. So the race is on to get vaccines into reticent arms.
In France, President Macron has taken the lead, taking a tough no-dose, no- fun approach to pressure the holdouts, banning the undosed from theaters, restaurants, cinemas, and much more. And it seems to be working, because,
while there are protests, there is an even bigger surge in vaccine take-up.
And France is now beating the United States and it could even soon overtake the U.K.'s highly successful rollout. More countries in Europe are now
considering adopting the French method. And the Biden administration is already making vaccines mandatory for certain federal workers.
Here to discuss her country's policy is the French member of the European Parliament Nathalie Loiseau.
Welcome back to the program.
So, tell us first, what is it that finally tipped your president over the edge and made him do this mandate and bring in these vaccine passes and
make it such a clear-cut, mandatory decision and policy?
NATHALIE LOISEAU, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, very simply, the Delta variant.
We don't want to get back into lockdown. We don't want to close shops and restaurants and bars and cinemas. Now that the vaccine is available for
everyone starting at the age of 12, and there are plenty of vaccines throughout our country, plenty of places where you can get your jab, the
idea is to give an incentive to people to get vaccinated.
Therefore, there is this new health pass, which is, you can enter a restaurant or a bar if you are vaccinated or if you tested negative or if
you already had COVID and recovered. So you you're not forced to vaccinate.
LOISEAU: But you (AUDIO GAP) prove that you don't -- you're not contagious if you go into a public place.
AMANPOUR: So, let's read some of the restrictions, all right?
So, the ones that are already in place starting from July 26 are for cinemas, nightclubs, museums, theaters, concerts and festivals, even zoos,
swimming pools and sports facilities. No entry with no evidence, as you say, that you are not contagious.
Now, in the next coming week, you also won't be able to go to cafes and restaurants including, outdoor terraces, to fairs, conferences, long-
distance transport like airplanes and the TGV, which is the fast train, care homes and retirement homes, some medical establishments, except for
emergency rooms. And, also, you can't go to hotels and holiday resorts.
It's a lot of places you can't go. Are you surprised that there is protest in the street? And how do you balance the protest with whether or not this
gamble is working?
LOISEAU: Well, first of all, as you mentioned in your introduction, the gamble is working. Actually, a very vast number of people are getting
vaccinated in France.
More than 60 percent of adults 12 years old above are vaccinated two jabs, or at least are fully vaccinated in the country, which is really
significant. So it's working. And many, many people who had simply waited, they had thought of getting vaccinated, but they were still sort of
procrastinating their decision, now they are getting vaccinated.
But, indeed, there are protests. And you should not downplay what's taking place as well. Some people very sincerely are fearful of the vaccine,
because they read or they heard so much disinformation, so many fake news for so many months that they got confused.
And then you have also political exploitation of this fear or this confusion coming from the far left and the far right. And you always have,
in my beloved home country, the sort of anti-authority culture, where a minority, which is not big, but a minority of people would protest any
decision, whatever the decision might be.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just get the figures, so people fully understand what you have just told me.
So, this weekend, there were some 200,000 protesters across sort of various major cities in France. And there have been protests over the last several
weeks since this announcement, and also since your Parliament passed an actual law to make this happen.
But, at the same time, you have had four million vaccines. I mean, the difference in numbers there is humongous. So you're right that the gamble
is paying off.
And you also say you must understand some of these people who are hesitant, who have been given fake news and the rest. But what about those, like this
person, who just keep talking about liberty and this and that? Let's just play this sound bite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I won't go to restaurants. I don't give a damn. I won't sell my soul to go to the cinema or for other
nonsense. That's it. There is more at stake, freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, the president himself responds to some of this criticism by saying: "What is your freedom worth if you say to me, I don't want to be
vaccinated, but, tomorrow, you infect your father, your mother, or you infect me?'
How is he dealing and how is France dealing with this freedom thing, given it's right there in your declaration of existence, on your coins and
everywhere, freedom, fraternity and brotherhood?
LOISEAU: Well, precisely.
(AUDIO GAP) and everywhere, you have freedom, you have equality, but you also have brotherhood. So you have to think not only about yourself, even
if vaccination protects yourself, but also about others, about elderly, about vulnerable people. Not all of them were vaccinated.
A number of them were in regions where the first wave of the pandemic was quite low. This is where I'm here sitting now in the Southwest of France.
The first part of the pandemic was very, very, very low here in this region. So you have a number of elderly people who didn't think they should
get vaccinated. They are vulnerable.
They should get vaccinated. But thank God people like me are already vaccinated, so we can go and see them without being a danger for them. So,
fraternity, brotherhood is as important as freedom and liberty in the French DNA.
AMANPOUR: So, the question then is, how do you enforce this policy? And let's just again state the facts and the polls, that this is a very popular
move, despite the protests and despite what we hear; 62 percent of the French people in the latest poll favor health passes, while 70 percent
approve of vaccine mandates for health workers.
So that's pretty important. How does your country plan to enforce or does it need to, because you're seeing the take-up happening? Do you feel you
have got work to do to enforce it? Or do you feel you have broken this holdout and, actually, a whole new floodgate of vaccine take-up has opened?
LOISEAU: Well, obviously, to be vaccinated now is easier than ever. You can be vaccinated on your place where you have holidays. You can be
vaccinated in shopping malls. It's really simple.
So I'm confident that more and more people are going to be vaccinated. For instance, for school pupils, it's not mandatory, but in case there is --
someone tested positive in a school, in a class, if you're vaccinated, you can go to the class. If you're not, you have to stay home.
So, it will be a strong incentive for young people to get vaccinated as well. But we still have to continue answering questions, fighting
disinformation which has been extremely strong on social media, and still is, and also fighting or at least debating with politicians which don't
show a lot of responsibility.
They find it's an opportunity to try to put pressure on Emmanuel Macron and the majority, and they are not really exercising their responsibility. You
could say this is political life. You could say that's how it has to be one year before a presidential election, but we are in the middle of a
So we have to be united and we have to be responsible.
AMANPOUR: You know, the same is happening in the United States. As you know, there's a whole group of political and other people who've been the
holdouts, and therefore threaten the rest of the health of the country.
And it happens in other countries. You can see in Europe that there are others now looking to adopt the French method, whether it's Italy, which
was one of the first to have a lockdown, one of the first to be so severely affected by COVID when it broke out. You can see various mandates for
vaccines in some parts of Ireland and that economic sector.
I guess -- the question, I guess is, what has the holdout done physically for your country? Yes, the Delta variant is highly transmissible. But what
has it done to the country right now, because -- is it affecting the economy? It's not really sending healthy people or vaccinated people into
the hospital. They generally get a lower level of case and certainly lower levels of death.
What is the most frightening thing about Delta?
LOISEAU: Oh, well, obviously people in the hospitals are not vaccinated. This -- 85 percent of people in hospitals right now with COVID are not
vaccinated, which really shows the efficiency -- the efficiency of the vaccine.
But, for instance, in overseas territories, in Guadeloupe, in Martinique, where the vaccination rate is very low, not higher than 20 percent,
intensive care units are already overwhelmed. There is already a need to send patients to the mainland, to French territory, because hospitals
cannot deal with the Delta variant.
so it can go very quickly. And it's not only elderly people who can get seriously struck by the -- by the COVID. So we don't want to get into one
more lockdown. Our economy is recovering at a speedy pace. This is what we need. Our young generation wants to be able to live a normal life.
And now that vaccine is available for everyone, this is precisely what we are trying to offer them, as normal a life as possible. And the health
certificate really allows all of us -- I went to a museum. I went to cinema. It takes you 30 seconds to show your pass on a special app.
I don't feel my liberty, I don't see my freedom is being threatened. On the contrary, I'm living a normal life, which was I was not able to live some
AMANPOUR: That is definitely the message to spread around.
Nathalie Loiseau, thank you so much, French member of the European Parliament. Thank you very much.
Now, as we said, the Delta surge in the United States is also causing alarm. And, again, disease and death is chiefly amongst the unvaccinated.
After lagging behind the rest of the U.S., Southern, mostly red states are now boosting their own vaccination numbers, but it's still not enough.
While half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated now, millions are not getting their doses.
Now, in a speech last week, President Joe Biden remarked on the resentment building up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is divided between the majority of eligible people who are vaccinated and those who are not.
And I understand that many of you in the majority are frustrated with the consequences of the failure of the minority to get vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The U.S. government is still trying to raise vaccine enthusiasm with treats and perks.
But my this next guest asks, what if the unvaccinated can't be persuaded? That is the title of Ezra Klein's latest column for "The New York Times.
And he's joining me now with some answers.
Ezra Klein, welcome to the program.
Can I ask you the democracy question, the minority-majority question, because you work a lot on that? You heard what I was talking about with the
French member of Parliament. You just heard me play what President Biden has said.
How long can a population, a majority put up, with a holdout minority, a significant minority, being mollycoddled, being coddled at the expense of
EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER, VOX: Well, that's an interesting question.
I'm not sure I think about it exactly like that, because you're dealing with a lot of states. This is very local, the way it's playing out. You
have places like where I live in San Francisco, very, very, very heavily vaccinated, and you have places in the country that have a majority who
You have very different political trends around this. So, in California, the state government is making -- is creating basically a vaccine mandate
for state employees. In Florida, the governor there, who is considered a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2024, is making it illegal for
individual employers to have their own vaccine mandates.
So part of what's happening here is, you have very different situations in different counties and in different states. And it is the collision of
these differing majorities, these differing publics, these differing political constituencies that ends up really mattering here.
But, as people often say, the virus does not care about your party affiliation. And the virus does not care about your ideology. The virus is
happy to infect the Republicans and Democrats alike. So one of America's great weaknesses in this entire pandemic is our political division.
AMANPOUR: So, you just addressed it, and you mentioned Florida and a potential presidential candidate.
We hear, I read in your newspaper that hospital admissions in Miami are surging. They're at very high levels right now. And you saw -- or at least
the nation saw that, by his own people's admission, President Trump lost the election chiefly around his mishandling, the perception of his
Do you think Governor DeSantis will stick to this, banning private enterprise and companies from having their own vaccine mandates, even as we
see Republicans around the country now stepping out more loudly to urge vaccine take-up?
KLEIN: I have wondered about this.
I mean, I think some of it is going to depend on the reality of situation, how much Delta fills the morgues and the ICUs in Florida. One problem with
DeSantis is, he has built a lot of his public reputation and his profile on trying to walk a line between not being entirely anti-science on this, but
also being a champion of those skeptical of lockdowns and vaccination mandates, right, trying to represent a kind of merged traditional
conservatism and a skeptical Trumpian conspiratorial conservatism.
And that's a hard thing to hold together when reality won't cooperate. So we're going to see.
The thing that I still can't quite believe that he did was not allow private employers to put these policies down themselves. I don't think we
can sustain at this point a national vaccine mandate, but I think a lot of individual employers are doing them, should be doing them. That's a good
first step and middle ground for now.
And for Republicans to turn against that, I mean, even "The Wall Street Journal" said, that's ridiculous. You need to let employers have the
policies that makes sense for them.
AMANPOUR: I thought that was a very conservative philosophy to let private enterprise, frankly, be private enterprise and do practically what they
want. They they're not bound by federal law, I guess. So it is weird. You're absolutely right. It is weird.
You say you don't see the possibility of a national mandate, a federal mandate. What do you make, though? What do you think America could learn
from what the French president has done? He's also a conservative. I mean, he's not a raging liberal. He's a centrist conservative. And he has done
something that was a gamble, and it seems to be paying off.
KLEIN: So, I--
AMANPOUR: Do you think America could ever do anything similar?
KLEIN: I think we can at least learn from it.
So I will note something that is important to look at for Americans in France. The beginning of July, France lags behind us in share of the adult
population and simply share of the entire population vaccinated. By the end of July, which is, by the way, before this is passed into law -- they're
just talking about it during this period -- the acceleration in vaccination sign-ups had boosted France well ahead of America in share of the
population being vaccinated.
So it actually does work to talk about this. One reason I wrote my piece, one reason I'm glad to see how much conversation there is among big
employers, among public employers is, I do think simply talking about this and making people think this is something that is probably going to come at
least in some of the things they frequent in their lives is really important and worth doing.
I'm not against a vaccine mandate. I'd like to see one happen. I'm worried that we cannot currently sustain it. And so I think you need middle steps
before we -- if we do end up making the choice to go all the way there before we get there.
For instance, you actually need to build a really strong infrastructure for how you're able to show that medical record to people. I have covered many
digital initiatives in the government. Sometimes, they don't work that well, like healthcare.gov.
So this question of what if you lost the card you got when you initially got vaccinated, what if they entered your information wrong, what if you
don't have a smartphone, it's -- to do a policy at the scale of vaccination mandate, you really have to be able to pull it off with almost a seamless
There's got to be people you can call if it's not working for you. You can get on the phone. The tests need to be available. So I would like to see
very big employers and public employers like the government doing this for their staffs, building up the digital and technical and testing
infrastructure, so that then if we decide, as a country, we need to move in this direction nationally in a couple of weeks or months, we actually have
the ability to do it.
AMANPOUR: Again, I'm listening to what you're saying, and I hear if we decide we need to do it in a couple of weeks or months.
I mean, this has been the sort of design of this whole problem in America of the response is just waiting to see what happens, as if that's some kind
of miracle solution, when we know what happens if one waits and doesn't do anything.
But I want to read a little bit from your article that we have been talking about, which is, what if the unvaccinated cannot be persuaded? You wrote:
"We do not solely rely on argumentation to persuade people to wear seat belts. A majority of states do not leave it to individual debaters to hash
out whether you can smoke in indoor workplaces. Polio and measles were murderers, but their near elimination required vaccine mandates, not just
public education. And when George Washington himself wants to protect his soldiers from smallpox, he made inoculations mandatory. It worked."
So, again, it is about telling the story and the right narrative. It worked once. What is it that's not working now? Particularly, as you say, what if
they will never be persuaded until it's too late?
KLEIN: So, there a couple of groups here.
One, the complicated part of this is, you need to be able to enforce a policy. And, one, because of the way we fracture authority throughout the
government into state governments and into local governments, the federal government has some authority to do this. But what are we actually saying
for enforcement here in a world where that would be highly polarizing and going into states like Florida that have actually made it illegal to do
something like that in state law?
Are we going to send National Guard troops in to enforce it? Are we going to throw people in jail? So one of the reasons I'm a little cautious about
talking about these policies is, sometimes, I think we make a mistake in the policy conversation about pretending that simply putting something into
law will make it happen.
Right now, I do not see stomach or capability to enforce it. And, as of yet, we haven't shown that we can even do the basic record-keeping
necessary to do it well. So I would like to see us build towards something like that, again, if we need to get there. Time is not going to solve
anything, but nor is a policy that fundamentally doesn't work.
And so you need to build things. You need to try to build public support. But if you cannot, if you cannot, well, then we have much harder choices in
this country. When you look at the people who are not vaccinated right now -- so we have talked about share the population, but I think it's better to
actually look at people over 18.
It's about 69 percent, I believe, of Americans over 18 have been vaccinated with at least one dose. And if you break that down even further -- Kaiser
Family Foundation does these numbers -- about half of those folks say they're still in the wait-and-see camp. So they're not definitely not going
to get vaccinated. They just haven't done it yet. They're not sure.
Another group, about 6 percent of the country, is saying they would only get vaccinated under some kind of mandate. But that implies that if there
is some kind of mandate, including just from local employers, bars, et cetera, that might convert a bunch of them.
And then I think it's still 14 points, 14 percentage points of the country say they will not get vaccinated under any circumstances. And that's where
you might get into these folks who there is a real kind of collision with.
So I think that there are middle steps that could get us basically halfway there. And if we got halfway there, that would be a big deal at this point.
And just to ask a last question the COVID issue, Dr. Fauci was obviously the Sunday programs, and he gave a shout-out to a lot of Republicans who
are now stepping forward. Let's just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'm also gratified by seeing that even people who in the beginning were reluctant to
promote vaccination are now doing it, I mean, people like -- Republicans like -- like Stephen Scalise or even Governor DeSantis talking about
getting people vaccinated, Asa Hutchinson out there beating the bushes getting people to get vaccinated.
I think that's what's happening now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Just -- so, just your assessment of -- given your knowledge of American politics, do you think that more of those people like the ones he
names who come out and basically change their tune about the vaccine will actually influence a significant number of people?
KLEIN: I'm certainly hoping so.
I mean, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is out there telling people it's the Trump vaccine and getting it as a way to thumb your nose at the lockdowns that
Anthony Fauci and the Democrats and the media want.
And you know what? Speaking as a member of the media, I applaud her. Like, if she wants to get people to take the vaccine as a way of sticking it to
me, I sure hope she succeeds.
Listen, I don't think Republicans want their constituents to die. And a lot of them will if you keep seeing this huge vaccination gap among Democrats
and Republicans. I think Democrats are over 80 percent, Republicans at about 52 percent.
That's a lot of vulnerability in their own constituencies, and as Delta begins to rip through the population, it's a lot of people who are going to
be hurt and harmed. I hope Republican politicians stand up and do the right things here.
They have in the past on public health. It is not un-Republican somehow to believe that we should treat public health as a collective endeavor. And it
is, I think, more than anything else, a hangover of Donald Trump's inconsistency and erratic nature on this.
Look, Warp Speed, the vaccine acceleration project, that was a Donald Trump policy. He could have been out there every single day taking a victory lap
on this. Weirdly, he always seemed more excited about cures that didn't work, like hydrochloroquine, than the cures that he actually helped usher
into existence that really do protect people from the illness.
So, it's a very, very, very strange way Republican politics fell out here. But there's another world that's very possible where Republicans see the
accelerated vaccines as a huge policy accomplishment and are barnstorming the country to get people to take them. Maybe they can catch up to that
AMANPOUR: You say weirdly. I fully agree. I have never fully understood. They say he could have won the election had he just taken ownership of the
vaccines, had his vaccine, showed it, shown the people what could be done and what was done under his administration in terms of that particular
piece of it.
So let's just take that attitude and move on to politics, democracy. Your latest podcast was a fascinating conversation between Nikole Hannah-Jones
and Ta-Nehisi Coates about race, about the nature of America, and about where the actual truth, I guess, lies in terms of moving forward.
So, if you see, as we all do, these politics and being played with something like a vaccine and a disease, how do you see and what was your
discussion about where America's story will come out, the idea of democracy?
If people can't believe basic science, and gather around sort of basic facts, what do you in your conversations feel about how the country will
deal with history, with trying to solidify of a fragile democracy?
KLEIN: I mean, not well.
So, one of the pieces of that conversation with Ta-Nehisi and Nikole Hannah-Jones is, one thing we're discussing is, a mistaken impression
Americans have of their own history is that we are a deeply small-D democratic country.
I mean, you will hear the word the world's oldest democracy, which is true in a certain way, in a very attenuated definition of democracy from a
couple 100 years ago. But we did not have anything like a democracy in which most adults were treated mostly equally by the political system until
after the civil rights movement in the '60s.
So, I mean, we're talking about a couple decades ago. we're talking about the lifetime of many people alive today. To the extent America is in any
respect a multiethnic democracy, that is shallow soil we are rooted in.
And so a lot of the fights we're having over whether or not we're going to expand or constrict the franchise, it's very important to start with the
recognition that it would be not a break from America's historical traditions to have wide-scale voter suppression or disenfranchisement, but
it would actually be in concert with them, in alignment with them.
It would be how the country has been for most of its existence, which means, actually, there's much reason to worry that these fights are truly
real, that any time you are trying to pull a country back into a historical alignment, you're in some ways going to face less opposition than if you're
trying to graft something totally new onto it.
And at least in one telling, making America a true multiethnic democracy would be bringing America into being something new, something it has not
So, how will our fractured empirical reality play into this? I mean, not well. But, on the other hand, it is not the case that at other points in
American history, agreement has been furnished, right? We did not agree on getting rid of slavery. We did not agree on the civil rights movement. We
did not agree on getting women the vote.
I mean, you had suffragettes who were committing street vandalism to do that. You had them beaten by the police. So, conflict over what kind of
democracy will be is nothing new and nor is conspiratorial thinking, nor is political opposition.
These are fights, unfortunately, that have to be fought--
KLEIN: -- and have to be won if the country's going to move forward.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And I just want to play this soundbite from Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, about what the election of Barack Obama
he thought said about the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I don't think reparations for something that happened a 150 years ago for whom none of us currently
living are responsible is a good idea. We've, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark
civil rights legislation. We've elected an African American president. I think we're always a work in progress. In this country. But no one
currently alive was responsible for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, your guests, Nikole and Ta-Nehisi, had a lot to say about that point. I just want to know in our final 30 minutes your view -- your
final thought about what he said about electing a black president.
KLEIN: Nikole Hannah-Jones had a great point in our conversation where she said -- she talked with lot of voters after the 2016 election and something
they said was that they had felt that America elected black president and that meant they are going stop hearing about racial inequality, we're going
to stop hearing about how hard it was for black people. And when that didn't happen, they felt betrayed and that's part of the reason they turned
to Donald Trump.
I think you are hearing that strain of sentiment in American life, voiced there by Mitch McConnell, that Barack Obama wasn't supposed to be part of
the country moving towards racial equality. It was supposed to be the end of having to hear about that, for him, I guess, annoying topic.
AMANPOUR: As you say, America is a work in progress. Ezra Klein, thank you so much indeed.
So, we have been discussing the spread, the fear and the search for solutions over this COVID and delta variant, but what do we really know
about the science behind it? Well, a recent internal document from the CDC reveals that it is as contagious as chickenpox and it increases the risk of
severe illness and hospitalization as we know.
Michael Osterholm is the director for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at University of Minnesota. Here is here speaking to Walter Isaacson
about how the United States should respond and what can be learned from other countries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And, Dr. Michael Osterholm, welcome back to the show.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
ISAACSON: I'm down here in New Orleans. Like much of the country, we're fighting the delta variant that's come along. With that delta variant, it
spun up in India and raged through the country and then subsided. And it seems it is doing the same in England. Is there a chance that variants like
this just burn themselves out?
OSTERHOLM: One of the observations we've had with COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 specifically, the virus, is it seems to want to run sprints and not
marathons. And what I mean by that is we have a whole overlapping set of these kind of whack a mole sprint moments country by country.
Just this past week, Iran is in its fifth surge and reporting the highest numbers of cases it has since the beginning of the pandemic. I can go
country by country, region by region and show you the same thing that without regard to necessarily what the humans do, you will see these big
surges of cases often lasting 5 to 8 weeks and then it just ends even though there are still, as I say, a lot of human wood for this coronavirus
forest fire to burn. And then it starts back up again later. And we don't you said that.
And I think that one of the challenges we have in public health prevention in messaging to the public is to help them understand just that.
ISAACSON: You just said it surges and then recedes irrespective at times of what humans do. Does that mean that we should just all get vaccinate but
not worry quite so much about shut downs and mask mandates?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, again, we have to look at what can we really do about the virus? Clearly, if we are not in contact with others,
we're not going to get infected not we're going to transmit the virus. So, distancing can play a key role regardless of whether the virus is going to
do its sprint or a marathon.
I have had concerns and I -- it dates back to April of 2020 about the concept of masking. Needless to say, is a political hot button beyond
anything I've ever seen in public health. And yet, at the same time, I think we've all done a disservice to the public. When you actually look at
face cloth coverings, those cloth pieces that hang over your face, they actually only have very limited impact in reducing the amount of virus that
you inhale in or exhale out.
And in fact, in studies that have been done show that if an individual might get infected within 15 minutes in a room, by time and concentration
of the virus in the room, if you add a face cloth covering, you only get about five more minutes of protection.
And so, I've been really unfortunately really disappointed with my colleagues in public health for not being more clear about what can masking
do or not do. On the other hand, if you use the N95 respirators and you fit them fight to your face, you can actually spend 25 hours in that same room
and still be protected.
ISAACSON: But we're not going to all be using N95. I mean, I got my mask here. With a Saints logo on it. I mean, it seems that we can't just do
OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, it is not about what you can and can't do. The science is first. And then we have to understand, then you can decide what
you can and can't do. The bottom line though is by telling people that, in fact, just putting a face cloth covering on is going to protect you is just
simply not true. So, when you ask what can you do if you don't want to put N95 on or you feel like you can't, then that is your choice, but bottom
line is putting your face cloth covering is only going to provide you limited protection.
The same is true how you wear it. We've been doing surveys on television screen shots of news media events looking at how many people are wearing a
face cloth covering or a mask or whatever, but then more importantly, how do they wear it? 25 percent of the population consistently, since the
beginning of the pandemic, wore it under the nose. That is like fixing three of the five screen doors in your submarine. You know, it's just
ridiculous. If you're going to wear, actually wear it to try maximize your protection.
So, we can do something about it. Distancing works. Efficient and effective respiratory protection works and most of all, vaccine works. So, there is a
lot we still can do.
ISAACSON: If we have protection against serious illness, even if the virus starts to spread, isn't that going to help solve this if enough of us just
don't get all that sick if the virus spreads and it is a little like a mild case of the flu?
OSTERHOLM: You know that is a critical point. I'm quoted in the New Yorker article posted yesterday just that very piece. About the fact that we have
to understand how much we've still gained from these vaccines. It's been remarkable in the reduction in the number of deaths. And if you look at
England. If you look at Israel. That is the case.
The one thing however we have to be very careful of again, and this is again trying to see into the future. Every morning, the first thing I do, I
get up and try to scrape the four inches of mud off my crystal ball and then go to work.
And in this case, if we look at what's happened in Israel, what they have found is a rather rapid reduction in the prevention to get serious illness
after six months. So, even there we are seeing now this wane in immunity having impact on whether you get serious illness or not, which is all the
reason why you are going to keep hearing much more in the days ahead about booster doses.
That is why the Israelis have now initiated booster doses for those over 60 years of age and those who have underlying immune conditions. And I think
that's what's going to happen here. Then we may be able to maintain the high level of protection against serious illness and death, which by itself
would be a tremendous gift in terms of fighting this virus.
ISAACSON: You've mentioned social distancing. How realistic is it today to get us back to social distancing? Does it mean we have to try to do shut
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, when we talk about social distancing, we have to understand that today it has a different meaning than it did at the
beginning of the pandemic when people thought it was just a six-foot distance, that all you had to do it was transmitted via what we call
respiratory droplets, those kinds of boulders that come out of our mouths and our nose when we speak or cough or sneeze, and they fall within six
feet of us.
Today, that is not the science that we know. We know these are transmitted with aerosols. If you want to know the difference, all those plexiglass
plates you saw that were put up that supposedly separated you from me with six feet have no real purpose today at all. The aerosols, to understand
really, are the best way I can tell people to do it, if you are in a room with someone and they are smoking and you smell it, you are getting
basically inhaled aerosols in.
Walking down the street, you know, I just had this happen to me this past weekend where all of a sudden, I smelled cigarette smoke and I looked
around and I was downwind from somebody 20 feet from me on the side of the sidewalk smoking. And now, in that case, you wouldn't likely get infected
from just that exposure. It's a time concentration. But we now have evidence that with the delta variant in particular, it may with just a few
minutes of exposure before you get infected.
So, when I say social distance, I'm talking about you do have to be apart from someone sufficiently that you wouldn't smell their cigarette smoke.
Now, that is a lot longer than six feet in most cases. So, what does that mean? Well, it means everybody can't do that.
We don't have that much space in the world and people aren't going to do it on mass transit. They are not going to do it in grocery stores, et cetera.
So, then I say well, well, how likely is it if you get infected you might have a very serious illness? Are you older? What is your body weight? Do
you have underlying immune deficiencies or immune suppression because of the drugs you are taking or health condition you might have?
And then I say, you don't want to be around people any period of time without an N95 respirator on and in fact, that distance. So, I don't think
it is going to apply to the general public. It just can't happen. It won't happen. And that is the challenge we have today.
ISAACSON: Are you concerned about recent studies that that show cognitive problems of people who have had COVID?
OSTERHOLM: I don't think anyone really understands the legacy of COVID-19 well into generations ahead. I think the issues around long COVID or long
haulers is going to be a very substantial issue. And I think the cognitive disfunction is going to be part of it. I think that there is going to be
much, much more coming from this fight between our bodies' immune systems and this virus and what it's done to all the rest of our body.
You know, we're like a castle that has been taking incoming from this virus and then we've fought back. And in the process, we both did damage to our
castle. And so, I think that this is a challenge. And I do worry a lot about these long hauler-like conditions, which cognitive disfunction is one
ISAACSON: Do you think it would be a good idea just to push as hard as we possibly can to convince and in some cases nudge people to get vaccinated
and forget about all the other peripheral stuff that we don't even quite know if it works?
OSTERHOLM: Well, I think, again, vaccine is at the very foundational aspects of anything we do to change this pandemic. Let me just say though,
I've been in this business 46 years. I have spent my career promoting vaccines. I actually helped write the legislation here in Minnesota back in
the 1980s to mandate vaccines in institutions or higher education. You know, I have been in the forefront of this. And I've never seen anything
like this before.
Please do not tell me lessons sops learned from childhood immunizations and apply them here because they just don't apply. This is a different
situation. With have three groups of people today. They are the vaccine affirmative. These are the people that drove 120 miles in February snow
storms to find vaccine in a clinic in some remote town. They couldn't wait to get it.
Then we have the vaccine hesitant. The group that, at this point, they have still legitimate concerns. This isn't a licensed vaccine. I am a pregnant
woman. I am a member of the black community who's been experimented upon by government. And this was operational warp speed and it is not a licensed
vaccine. All really legitimate questions.
And then there is the third group. The vaccine hostile. These are people who under no conditions will be vaccinated, at least, in any way against
their will. And they are a group that in many cases don't even believe the pandemic is real, et cetera. The vaccine hostile, we're never going to get.
You know, whatever they have to do to not get vaccinated they will do it.
It's the vaccine hesitant right now that we need to really focus on and convert those people to vaccine recipients. And we're actually making
progress there. And, you know, the more information we get on the vaccines in terms of licensure I think is going to help a lot.
You know, we do have stops and starts. In the last 72 hours I've take a number of questions from people who said, wait, wait, wait. No. Why would I
get this vaccine now? Because I can still transmit the virus? And so, you know, we have to go through all of it, just lay out why this is still a
very important tool what that means. But I think the vaccine hesitant group that if we can bring them along, that is going to be a group that will be
ISAACSON: I want to you look into the camera and give a great one sentence pitch to a vaccine hesitant person.
OSTERHOLM: If you don't care about yourself, you can say, I don't see this vaccine. I'm strong enough. But if you care about the ones you love, your
friends, your family, your colleagues, your mother and father, grandfather, your kids, you will get this vaccine.
ISAACSON: Should restaurants require vaccines?
OSTERHOLM: I would say every place right now. I do that. I, for example, though have not supported a vaccine mandate at our own institution, the
University of Minnesota. And the reason for that is because in Minnesota law, the way vaccine exemptions are set up in our public institutions, you
have to offer deferments for medical reasons and for philosophical reasons. So, all I have to do is sign a sheet of paper and say, I'm done, I'm not
getting it. Have it notarized, and I'm exempt.
And if we put a mandate in place today, we have heard from some of those very communities I just mentioned, the black community, said, if you
mention the word mandate we're done. We're out. We're going to sign off. We're not going to get it. We need time to bring these people along.
Remember, this isn't a campaign like we use for childhood immunizations where it may take us years before we're able to get vaccine levels up.
Look at even in adults with vaccines like shingles or HPV how long it's taken us to get people to actually take the vaccine. Here we're now
expecting in just a few months for that to happen. If we put in place a mandate in our state, in colleges and university, we're going to see a lot
of people sign that exemption and we'll never get them back, and those are the ones who we're trying to get on board.
So, I think there is a time and place for mandates. I have so say, you know, when I started here in Minnesota back in the mid-1970s it was at the
heyday of the Indoor Air Act and clean air. And we heard from bars and restaurants around the state, oh, my god. If you put in place non-smoking,
we're done. We're cooked. We can't make it. Well, it turned out people had forgotten that 30 percent of smokers were very different than 70 percent of
people who didn't smoke and they couldn't wait to get to a bar or restaurant that was actually smoke free and business went up.
And so, I think right now if you had restaurants and bars, you had venues where people required to be vaccinated and show that, that you would
actually see participation substantially increase beyond anything else. I'd feel safe to go there today. I wouldn't feel safe to go to a restaurant
today where that wasn't the case.
ISAACSON: The music venues here in New Orleans have all just decided to say, you need to show on your phone your vaccine -- you know, that you're
vaccinated, whether it's Preservation Hall or DBA or Tipitina's, and that's caused an uptick in people getting vaccinated. They want to go hear music.
Does that make sense?
OSTERHOLM: I think that's -- I love that. I think that's the incentive piece. You know, there are two ways to go at this. There is vinegar and
there is honey. And you know, wherever you can use honey we've shone in public health time and time again it is the most effective way to go.
ISAACSON: You say that the single most important thing we can do to protect our health in face of this virus is to get vaccinated. What about
children, young children?
OSTERHOLM: Young children right now are a challenge. We have to acknowledge that. We need to get vaccine for those children. You know,
these studies can't get done quick enough.
But also, Walter, you know, one of the challenges I have, and I don't know what the answer is, and this is one of those issues of humility, is the
fact that here we are talking about the riches of the high-income countries are debating whether to have a booster dose, a third dose and we have 6.4
million people living in low- and middle-income countries and less than 2 percent of them had access to any doses. And, you know, we can surely make
an argument on the humanitarian basis the critical need to get vaccine to the countries.
But also in a very important way is the fact that these new variants are not as likely to come spinning out of a smaller population experience like
the United States. But they surely could spin out in large numbers in these infections among the 6.4 billion people living in low- and middle-income
countries. So, it is in our strategic interest to get vaccine to these countries just to try to preserve and protect the integrity of our
So, you know, I think we have lot of work to do, as I've side. And from your perspective as a historian and expert in this, we need a Manhattan
Project now to make vaccines. We need a whole lot of marshal plans to get it delivered.
ISAACSON: And do you think very young children, they should be authorized now to be vaccinated?
OSTERHOLM: I don't think the data are there yet to provide the satisfactory safety information that are going to be required. We're going
to have a hard time getting parents to buy this vaccine for their kids for a number of them. Some parents can't get it quick enough. But there are
going to be a lot of parents that I've seen the kind of communications from these patients that say, no way are my kids going to get vaccinated. They
are not going to be ab experiment.
And so, again, this is going to be our challenge, is we're going to have schools where some kids will be vaccinated and some kids won't. We have to
anticipate that now. What can we do now to help basically provide the support, the education, the information.
The other thing, I think, that's happening that is a game changer, is in the first year of the pandemic, right up through the time when the alpha
variants really started to emerge, we did see a very different epidemiology of infection in kids. It was much less infectious. Kids did not transmit
nearly as readily between themselves or others or did they get infected? We didn't see nearly the same spectacular of serious illness. That all changed
with alpha. And now, with delta, it is even been accentuated.
And so, I think that one of the things we have to understand is that the data we had a year ago on kids and infection doesn't hold up today. And the
data today says kids are a lot higher risk of getting infected, of transmitting the virus and potentially even having serious illness.
ISAACSON: Dr. Michael Osterholm, as always, thank you for being with us.
OSTERHOLM: Thanks, Walter.
AMANPOUR: And finally, despite COVID also in Japan, there have been dramatic developments at the Olympics. Instead of competing, Belarusian
sprinter, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, is at the Polish embassy right now seeking political asylum after a dust up with her coaches and the nation's
authoritarian president over which race she competes in.
And the other big story, of course, is Simone Biles who is returning to compete for a gold medal after having pulled out of some events last week.
Correspondent Selina Wang joins us from Tokyo with more.
Selina, it is extraordinary. Everybody has been focusing on Simone Biles. What's the mood there? Is there that sense of anticipation about her coming
back? What she might achieve tomorrow?
SELINA WANG, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, absolutely. This is a very high stakes return for Simone Biles. This would be her last
opportunity to take home gold at these Olympics after withdrawing from several events saying she wanted to focus on her mental health. Now, she's
returning to the balance beam.
But, however, Christiane, as early as Friday, she had posted on Instagram that she was still dealing with this mental block that gymnasts call the
twisties. She said she literally could not tell up from down and that it was terrifying to try skills without her mind and body syncing together.
However, balance beam requires less of the twisting, so it could be more manageable given that she's still dealing with this mental block.
But I have to say that the reception among other athletes here as well as much of the public has been incredibly positive. Simone Biles may have
pulled back but she has sparked this global conversation about mental health among elite athletes. She is being applauded for having the courage
to know when to step back to protect herself, because people recognize that gymnastics is a dangerous sport and that when she is not mentally in the
right state, it could have serious repercussions for her physical abilities.
And, Christiane, she's definitely not holding back. I was at the individual event finals on Sunday and I could hear her all the way across the stands
cheering on her teammates, standing up, taking on this role almost of coach as well.
AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary and we've all been following it so closely that. That twisty that you've just been talking about makes sense, but it
is extraordinary and it is only them who can feel that. They are the ones in the air who have got to figure out they have the mental and physical,
you know, confidence to land that maneuver.
But as for Japan, and you have been talking to some of the athletes, particularly the swimmer. Despite COVID, it's been very well received the
games in Japan despite, obviously, the problems this year and the years delay. Talk to us about how the athletes there are viewing their own
WANG: It's been very interesting and very tough on the athletes. I've been living in Tokyo since last year and I've been talking to residents all the
time, regularly leading up to this moment. And there was so much immense opposition, frustration among people.
Among anti-Olympic protesters that the government was pouring so many resources into a global sporting event when so many in Japan and around the
world were still suffering from COVID-19 and Japan has also had a very slow vaccine rollout. And as of today, still less than a third of the population
But after the Olympic ceremony happened, we have seen the opposition start to soften. I spoke to the CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services who told me
that 90 percent of the Japanese public has watched some part of the games on TV since they started. And when I speak to residents, I certainly feel
that. They are becoming inspired by these incredible performances from athletes around the world including their own nation's athletes.
Japan has had a stunning run at the Olympics, taking home already a record number of Olympic golds, and I speak to Yui Ohashi, she is a swimmer and
the first Japanese woman to take home multiple gold medals at the same Olympics. Take a listen to what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUI OHASHI, JAPANESE GOLD MEDALIST: We the athletes went to the Olympics with a great deal of confusion, but I've received a lot of comments from
people who said they were moved by athletes winning gold medals and other medals. Seeing athletes trying so hard. So, I'm very happy about that. It
was a miracle for me to participate in the Olympic Games in my own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WANG: But, Christiane, I think it is important to note that this excitement for the athletes and support for the athletes also comes with
difficult mixed emotions. I still speak to many who say they don't think it is the right time to celebrate. They are worried about the surge in COVID-
19 cases in Japan. Cases in Tokyo have been reaching regular record highs. Tokyo is still under state of emergency. And COVID-19 cases within the
Olympic bubble have also been increasing.
AMANPOUR: It is really so interesting. Thanks for bringing it to us from Tokyo. Selina Wang, thank you so much.
And just as we leave you, we want to say that Italy has been having a very good 2021. Not only did they win the Euro Vision song contest and the Euro
Final, but they created Italian Olympic history with the highest jumping man who won in the high jump, and also the world's fastest man. They both
had the most amazing Olympics and the Italian Olympic Committee says, the greatest day in Italian sports history.
And on that lovely note, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and
good-bye from London.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Live from CNN London, I'm Max Foster in for Hala Gorani.