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At This Hour

Sources: U.S. to Recommend COVID Booster Shot After 8 Months; Pentagon: Up to 4,000 U.S. Troops in Kabul by End of Today; Death Toll Rises to 1,400+ After Powerful Earthquake In Haiti. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 17, 2021 - 11:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I won't get poppy context.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'll leave some in your desk for you.

SCIUTTO: But I know I'll see you again.

HARLOW: Thank you. I learn from you every day. I'm excited to be back here with you soon.

SCIUTTO: Enjoy it.

HARLOW: Thank you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan is next.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's exciting news, Poppy. Congratulations. That's really awesome. More to come on that. That's really great news.

Let's get to it.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Big boost. The Biden administration plans to recommend booster shots for most Americans to get additional protection against the delta variant.

Under Taliban rule. New details about who will run Afghanistan going forward and how the U.S. plans to prevent terror groups from making a resurgence there.

And tragedy in Haiti. Aid workers scramble to try and find survivors from the massive and deadly earthquake. A live report on those desperate efforts, ahead.

We do begin with breaking news really on two big stories, the pandemic and the response to the crisis in Afghanistan. Let's start with coronavirus. Sources are telling the top health

officials in the Biden administration are expected to recommend that most Americans get a coronavirus booster shot eight months after being fully vaccinated.

For those who got the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, experts are still gathering data but it is expected that you will also need a booster. An official announcement could come this week and boosters could be started next month. Health care workers and elderly, they'd be the first in line. This news comes though as new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are surging in the United States because of the delta variant, especially among the unvaccinated. Let's get to this news and get some context around it.

Joining me now CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, how should people be thinking about these boosters.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they'd be right to be a little confused by this, you know, because, Kate, it was just a week or two ago when we were saying boosters are going to be recommended for people who have weakened immune systems but there's not really evidence, the FDA was saying, that the rest of the country needs them.

And that is -- that made sense. Because if you look globally at what is happening in the country, the vast majority, 99 percent plus of people getting severely ill, ill enough to be in the hospital, are the unvaccinated, the vast majority of transmission of this virus.

While it can spread from vaccinated, the majority is among the unvaccinated and about half of the country is still unvaccinated.

So in some ways we're adding another layer of protection to already very good protection for the vaccinated. And while the real problem is that people who don't have that protection at all. Kids obviously hasn't been authorized for people under 12. So you have all of the competing forces here.

Having said that, you know, the United States has hasn't released a lot of data on what is happening with the vaccinated population overall. We're looking at data from Israel. We're looking at data from the U.K. and there is some indication, if you look at that data, that the vaccine's effectiveness may start to wear down and people may start to become more likely to get symptoms, bad colds and things like that. Not bad enough to land them in the hospital, but bad colds.

So putting it altogether for me, I'm 51 years old and I'm going to run out and get a third shot. Probably not. For my elderly parents, a bad cold with age and comorbidity may be a bigger problem. So certain populations make sense. I don't know that you necessarily could look at the data and say it makes sense for everybody to get a third shot when half of the country hasn't gotten the first shot.

BOLDUAN: And to put a finer point on it, there are people who see this news of the need for boosters and they're going to think that must mean that the vaccines aren't working as well. It is not that. Explain.

GUPTA: Yeah, that is it. And let me just clarify. Half of the country hasn't been fully vaccinated. About 70 percent is getting at least a first shot. But to your point, let me show you this data. And this is a data that I think have been looking at sort of the effectiveness of the vaccine over time.

Moderna and Pfizer, January and July. And you could see that it drops off against infection, period, against infection. That could be people who have no systems, to people who had more severe symptoms. There is a lot of people who may have this, quote/unquote, breakthrough infections or post vaccination infections that don't really have symptoms and they would get counted into this.

But if you dig down deeper into the data and say, OK, let's now look at how well does the vaccine work against hospitalizations and deaths. And again, I realize people could get very sick and not end up in the hospital. I don't want to minimize that. But hospitalization protection from Moderna, 91 percent, Pfizer, 85 percent. And against death, very good protection. It is not quite 100 percent but it is close enough to 100 percent to say the vaccines do a really good job at preventing people from dying.


So that's the data. Are we now going to add a third shot to reduce the likelihood of bad colds? And again, I don't want to minimize that, but bad colds -- versus, you know, making sure other people in the country get their shots and frankly other people in the world, where, you know, many places in the world don't have access to this, or enough access.

BOLDUAN: We have often been looking to Israel for clues as to what comes next for the United States since Israel was faster and better getting people vaccinated and they think they've administered the millionth booster shot in Israel.

What will you be looking for there? What can we learn from there?

GUPTA: I think the big question and the data does reflect what we're seeing here, but early, they started vaccinating earlier so the data is further ahead. You do see that as they've got the third boosters, they have decreased the likelihood of developing symptomatic infections overall, but haven't made a dent in severe hospitalizations because it was already very good like here in the United States.

There is a nuanced point here and this may be something that we'll talk about more later, but in the United States and in Israel, we gave those first two shots close together. Three to four weeks, defending on Moderna or Pfizer. If you look at Canada, for example, they spread it out.

There is now increasing evidence that having spread it out may have been better because that kind of gave you a true prime to let the immune system prime itself and then eight to 12 weeks later give a real boost. And in essence we may be essentially doing that sort of thing now here in the United States by getting the third shots and a long duration after the first two.

But again, it is hard to sort of say across the board that people who are other wise healthy with protection against the first two shots are going to need a third. I think we need to see the data from the CDC and how they justify that and not rely on preprinted and other data from Israel and other places. You want to be sort of forecasting and seeing around the curves here, but the data really has to mean something if they're going to make these big decisions.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, so interesting. Sanjay, thank so much. It's good to see you.

I want to turn now to other breaking story, which is the Pentagon just wrapped up the briefing, giving the latest updates from their perch on the situation in Afghanistan.

Evacuation flights have resumed after U.S. troops regained control of the Kabul airport and we've now learned from the department that there will be 4,000 troops in the ground in the capital city by the end of today.

CNN's chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live at the White House with more on this. Jeff, a lot -- some more detail coming from the Pentagon about what they're doing now kind of to make up for what has happened. What did we hear?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Kate, there was new detail and coming and this is part of the administration's effort to be forward-looking. To try and resolve the crisis as much as they can and put aside the incrimination of how it led to this point.

But we saw the Pentagon, the press secretary, Admiral John Kirby talking just a short time ago about all of the efforts that the military is doing. You're right. 4,000 troops on the ground by tomorrow and next day there will be a thousand or potentially 1,500 troops more than that trying to focus on security at the airport there.

And we heard specifically some 5,000 people could be evacuated every day. That is Americans there. There is an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Americans around the Kabul area as well, of course, as the Afghan partners.

But take a listen to this estimate from the top military planner.


MAJ. GEN. HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF REGIONAL OPERATIONS: As part of this force concludes, the speed of evacuation will pick up. Right now we're looking at one aircraft per hour in and out of HKIA. And our best effort could look like 5,000 to 9,000 passengers departing per day. But we're mindful that a number of factors influence this effort. And in circumstances could change. We will keep you updated.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: So Major General Hank Taylor there saying circumstances could change and that is what worries officials at the Pentagon, the State Department and in deed here at the White House. And the circumstances, of course, positioning of the Taliban.

Right now, it appears they are allowing this to go forward but that is the big worry across the government. What happens if that changes. We do know that U.S. military leaders are is conversation with Taliban leader as well.

This comes as President Biden remains at Camp David today. I'm told he is being briefed on the security situation on the ground in Kabul as his advisers here are trying to explain what happened over the last few days and again do some forward-looking to try to get the Americans out. But we'll hear from top U.S. officials here at the White House later on this afternoon.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, thanks for that update. Appreciate it.

Joining me now is CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen for more on this.


So, Dana, as Jeff well lays out, it is an important update from the Pentagon and it could easily be seen as part of this effort to fix what is such a mess right now. Is it clear to you how the administration contains the fallout of what has happened in the last couple of days?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: By doing exactly what they're doing now with regard to sending in thousands more U.S. military men and women and to the capital city, specifically to the airport, because, Kate, the thing that I'm hearing from sources from Capitol Hill, frankly, to the private sector, people who are working with NGOs and other organizations to get people out who worked with Americans, women and children, particularly women who were working in the business world and now fearful for their lives because they had their own businesses.

What I'm hearing is remember to send the message that this is not over. This isn't a hand wringing exercise about what went wrong because it is an active situation. And that is clear from the Pentagon response today. The question is, how quickly could they fix the situation, Kate?

Ted Lieu, who I know you know, is now of a member of Congress. He was in the Air Force. He tweeted something that I thought was so fascinating yesterday and he said that back when he was serving, what he did was to airlift people in Iraq during Saddam Hussein, the Kurds who example who were in his cross-hairs and they did that and they got the paperwork done afterwards.

So airlift out, ask questions later. And so that is what I'm hearing from even the president's staunchest allies is concern that there is too much bureaucracy going on with helping people that are in harm's way, especially those that helped American.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And Peter there are reports that Taliban is urging women to join their government. They're trying to say that they're reformed and more moderate. Taliban co-founder has just arrives in Afghanistan. U.S. military commanders are in touch with the Taliban at Kabul airport.

I lay all of this out because I really want your perspective if you think there is -- is there reason to believe that the Taliban today is changed from the Taliban of the '90s?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I'm pretty skeptical probably based on having spent a fair amount of time in Taliban controlled Afghanistan when they were the government. They spent 20 years fighting to get to this point. At the core of that project, Kate, as you know, is exclusion of women from any significant roles in the workforce and also very limited education for girls.

Then add to that that every jihadi group is celebrating this victory, according to Afghan officials, 10,000 foreign fighters in the country already, you could guarantee there will be thousands more. So, you know, they're saying the right things. Let's see when all of the Americans have left or most of the Americans have left, and when they declare the Islamic emirate which is not different from the Islamic caliphate that ISIS declared in Iraq.

Of course, there are differences. But there are more similarities than differences.

BOLDUAN: That is a good way of putting it. More similarities than differences, Peter. That's important perspective.

Dana, to drill down on a point you were making, this is also an extremely dangerous moment for the thousands of Afghans who helped the American efforts, American troops throughout the war. Biden said yesterday that there are plans to airlift more of them in the coming days. It is not clear how many that actually is. I mean, advocates for these Afghans are furious.

I mean, let me play Matt Zeller. He's an Afghanistan war vet and a co- founder of an SIV nonprofit. Listen.


MATT ZELLER, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND CO-FOUNDER: have been personally trying to tell this administration since it took office, I've been trying to tell our government for years that this was coming. We sent them plan after plan on how to evacuate these people. Nobody listened to us.

We've identified all of them for government. I have no idea why they -- he claims that people don't want to leave Afghanistan. I have a list of 14,000 names right now of people who want to get out of Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: And this really does go beyond domestic politics obviously. This gets to America keeping its word.

BASH: Absolutely. It's a humanitarian crisis that could have been, if not totally avoided, it could have been made so much less severe had, according to what we just heard from that sound bite that you just played and so many other people who work in that space, they've been pleading very much in public, not just in private, with the administration to get a handle on this before the deadline came.

And it doesn't sound like those pleas were heeded. And so again, this is not a story that is over.


This is happening as we speak. There is still time for the story to have a better ending. Despite the fact that the images that -- and the symbolism from those images that we all saw in the last 24, 48 hours particularly at that airport, they're indelible. And they're indelible and for the whole world to see when it comes to America's moral authority.

Again it is fixable. But there is not a lot of time.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Well and to that point, Peter, in this Pentagon briefing, John Kirby was asked about this August 31st dead that has been set by the White House of when this will kind of U.S. effort will be done. And asked if you haven't gotten everyone out by then, do you extend into September and he would not answer it. I mean, partially, it is -- it has to come from the commander-in-chief, but what do you think of that?

BERGEN: Well, he's in a tricky spot. And, of course, they moved the deadline from the 20th anniversary of 9/11 to August 31st in order not to have the terrible coincident of these two events happening simultaneously -- the full pullout and the memorialization of 9/11. So that was a bit of political theater.

So, this August 31st deadline is already being moved and I'm sure from a pragmatic point of view, if we still have Americans and allies and interpreters still not accounted for and on the ground, of course, they're going to not -- they're going to have to change things. Because why would you just -- you've already moved the deadline once. Why not move it again?

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Peter, thank you. It's good to see you.

Dana, it's always good to see you. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, American aid is on its way to Haiti as a tropical storm hampers these very important earthquake recovery efforts on going there. Just look at some of the pictures coming out of Haiti. We're going to have a live report, next.



BOLDUAN: The death toll from that powerful quake in Haiti is rising, now at more than 1,400 and complicating the recovery effort a tropical storm pounding the island nation with heavy rain and strong winds overnight. The Pentagon just last hour pledged more support is on the way.

CNN's Joe Johns is live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with the latest.

Joe, what are you seeing there today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, probably the most important thing that we could say right now is that the tropical storm has moved out. It is moved away from Haiti. The significance of that beyond the human cost which is people who have already lost their homes, having to sleep in the rain, there is also the difficulty that the water creates. It can create landslides for example, the U.S. geological service has reported 150 landslides.

And when the water hits all of that debris, there is the possibility of sort of a mobilization of the sediment that just makes the situation much more daunting and more dire for the people who are trying to be rescued.

Now, the other thing that I think is important to say is that the United States pentagon has now weighed in, John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson, indicating that the United States government is moving a wealth of resources into the area. A couple of ships, including USS Arlington and, also, the USNS Burlington, as well a number of aircraft. And that also comes in in decision to the United States Coast Guard which put a bunch of helicopters in the area as well.

All of that important because they're helping to evacuate people most in need from the scene to the hospitals here in the capital of Port- au-Prince -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joe, thank you so much for the update. Appreciate it.

Coming up next for us, the Taliban trying to convince the world they've changed and urging women to join their new government in Afghanistan. Can they be trusted and what could the U.S. do now to ensure the safety of women and girls there?



BOLDUAN: Is this a reformed Taliban? The Taliban issuing a statement this morning claiming they do not want women to be victimized or discriminated against. They also say they will grant amnesty to all employees of the now former Afghan government.

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward filed this report this morning from Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is more activity on the streets, more shops that are now open, more government workers going back to their post because the Taliban wants to show that it could govern, it is not just a fighting force but they could keep the lights on.

And this is how they're doing it basically. I'm just going to step out of the shot and you could maybe take a slightly closer look. These are Taliban fighters just behind me. They are on a old Humvee, those Humvees traditionally associated here with the NDS, which is Afghanistan's equivalent of the CIA.

You could see they're all quite keen to pose for the camera because they're in pretty good spirits right now. They see themselves as being the victors in all of this.


BOLDUAN: Clarissa also spoke with the Pentagon press secretary this morning about how the U.S. plans to help Afghans who risked their lives helping the U.S. efforts for two decades. Here is that.