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CNN: WH May Have To Scale Back Ambitious Vaccine Booster Plan; Biden Makes False Claim About Visit To Mass Shooting Site; "Front Row To History: The 9/11 Classroom" Airs Sunday At 10 PM ET. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired September 03, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIV. OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT UNIV. OF ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM: One is that in the advisory group meeting that happened the other day, the emphasis was on the fact that the current two dose regimen has done a really good job in preventing the worst outcomes of COVID, right? It's really protected people from getting admitted to the hospital from dying and generally from severe illness.

It hasn't necessarily been as good against people getting infected with the Delta variant. So the question is, if you do want to institute boosters, should that be with the same vaccine? Should the timing be oriented towards more surveillance of emerging molecular variants? And that's a really good question as well.

So I think there are just a lot of unknowns out there as we move towards this. The other thing is, you know, we've taken a big leap of faith asking people to trust in the rapidity of this process, right? Lots of people have pushed back and said, how could you have developed a vaccine so fast? And now we're asking them, oh, trust us, you know, you need a booster even though we don't really have all the data and we may not have gone through the process that the FDA is famous for. So lots of considerations, I think it's a really difficult topic.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And to be clear for everyone out there, we're talking about the data on the booster shot and the impact and need for a booster shot. This is not data on the safety or efficacy of the vaccines that we have, well, many of us have taken, the vaccines that are being -- that are safe and are being administered every day. That's -- these are two separate conversations we're talking about, as you said, because there are so many millions of Americans still Dr. Marrazzo, who have not even gotten their first shot.

But on this booster shot conversation, practically speaking, I'm sitting here wondering, there are people who are scheduling boosters, and have scheduled booster appointments as we speak. What should they do?

MARRAZZO: So, I am personally in favor of people getting boosters if they want to and if it is safe as deemed by their physician or in conversation with people who know these things. For example, you know, if you have an elderly parent who's 90, who was vaccinated in February, as I do. I would absolutely say go ahead, get your shot, because we know that immunity wanes over time, particularly in older people. And we do know that that has happened with the Pfizer vaccine.

I think the challenge is that so many people have not been vaccinated at all, the system is really stressed. Right now, as you know, we're taking care of record numbers of patients in our hospitals. So the gear up for widespread booster programs would be another level of challenge that I think would be very hard to do. Now, if you have an appointment and you've thought about this stuff, and you are, you know, really want to get it. Absolutely, because the vaccines are also going to waste, I don't know if that's come into the conversation. But, you know, we here --

BOLDUAN: Yes, there is that new reporting that there were millions of doses that have gone to waste that when I read it --


BOLDUAN: -- it was like made me sick in my stomach.

MARRAZZO: Absolutely. So why not take advantage of what we think is probably going to happen anyway. That the distinction was between your personal decision to do it, which you can make based I think on the available data and your experience versus a coordinated plan between the White House, the CDC, and the FDA, et cetera, that really sort of says this should happen on a basis that really should get all Americans on board with and that just hasn't happened yet.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Dr. Marrazzo on this reporting of kind of, I'm going to call it tension because I don't have another word to describe it, right, behind the scenes between top health officials and this rollout of the booster shots that the White House has already announced. What does it say to you about the overall pandemic response if the country -- if some of the country's top health officials and the White House are not seeing eye to eye to the extent that it is making its way in -- to the -- making its way into the public? Like obviously there are disagreements that happen behind the scenes. But the fact that this is now public, what does that say?

MARRAZZO: It's discouraging to me. And, you know, so many people blamed the previous administration. And the CDC is initially somewhat stumbling response with regard to many aspects of the pandemic. And I think people really do think with a new era of communication, a new era of leadership, there would be a more coordinated approach that seems to have been borne out. But when you see things like this, and as important as something like a national booster plan, you would really like to see more transparency again and some more coordinated communication. So it does lead you to ask who's really running the show here? And that makes people very anxious.

BOLDUAN: Well, I'm sure we will be hearing much more about this after the reporting. It is very good to see you Dr. Marrazzo. Thank you very much for coming on. Appreciate it.


MARRAZZO: My pleasure. Thanks Kate. Stay safe.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Coming up, a CNN Fact Check, a false claim by President Biden that the White House has just responded to, Daniel Dale joins us next.


BOLDUAN: Developing out this hour, a fight over who is to blame for the failure to evacuate more Afghans before the U.S. withdrawal. We saw so that crush of people trying to leave, of course, there for days before the Taliban fully took control.


Republicans are blaming and have been blaming the Biden administration for this but it didn't start with them. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is joining me now with this new reporting. Priscilla, you've really interesting detail in this. New detail on the role that Trump advisor Stephen Miller played in how they handled this Special Immigrant Visa Program. Fill us in.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: Kate, we spoke to multiple former officials who worked under the Trump administration that said that that slow walking of a visa process for Afghan allies contributed to the mayhem at the Kabul Airport when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan. And as you said, they point to Stephen Miller, top adviser to former President Donald Trump and who is known for his hardline views on immigration as the driving force for the slowdown of this process.

Now one person described a 2018 White House meeting. During that meeting, this person said that Miller said quote, what do you guys want? He went on to say, a bunch of Iraq's and stands across the country? Now this stunned officials who repeatedly tried to convey to the Trump administration that refugees are among the most vetted immigrants who come to the United States, particularly Afghan allies who have worked along U.S. troops and on behalf of the U.S. government and are vetted prior to that work.

But still, the suspicion of refugees by the Trump administration stalled this already cumbersome process and led to a significant backlog that was inherited by the Biden administration. As one former official told me we lost time.

Now refugee advocates and veterans say the Biden administration should have done more to prepare for the evacuation of these refugees. But unfortunately, many are believed to still be in Afghanistan and could face reprisal by the Taliban. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Priscilla, thank you so much for that reporting.

So President Biden is taking heat for falsely claiming that he visited the Pittsburgh synagogue attacked by a mass shooter when he never actually went there. The White House has just responded to CNN's fact check on this one. Joining me now is CNN's Daniel Dale who has details on all of this. So Daniel, what is the White House saying about this? DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, so President Biden was speaking yesterday to Jewish leaders in advance of Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year and he was talking about the evils of anti-Semitism. Let me play the comment that President Biden make before we get into the response. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I remember spending time at, you know, going to the, you know, the Tree of Life Synagogue speaking with them, it just as amazing these things are happening in America.


DALE: So the problem is, as he said, President Biden did not actually visit this Synagogue. The executive director of the Synagogue told "The New York Post" that this just didn't happen. Now, the White House says President Biden was referring to a phone call he made to the Rabbi of the synagogue in 2019. And the rabbi just did issue a statement saying this did happen. President Biden called him to express condolences, convey support in the fight against anti- Semitism, and this meant a lot to him. Still Kate, President Biden said he spent time there. He remembered going there. And that, again, is not true.

BOLDUAN: And that did not happen. You also have another fact check. This one on the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in his recent "Fox News" interview that's just frankly chock full of false statements.

DALE: Yes, it was a seven minute interview. I counted at least five false claims. Some of them just kind of detached from reality. He said that oil prices were the highest we've ever seen. Not only are they not -- were they not even half at the time of the record levels, they were not even at the Trump era peak, they were significantly higher at points in 2018 and 2019. And then there was a comment he made about Afghanistan that again, had no basis in fact. Listen to this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Why are they protecting the border from those 5,000 prisoners who have just left by the Afghanistan and have the hope of coming across our borders?


DALE: This is imaginary. There was no group -- is no group of 5,000 Afghan former prisoners who had just left the country and we're trying to get into the United States by crossing the border here.

Now, one other important point, Kate, where we heard that 5,000 number before, well, Congressman McCarthy didn't mention that it was President Trump's own deal with the Taliban in 2020 in which the U.S. agreed to allow 5,000 Afghan prisoners to go free, so false and missing important context. Kate? BOLDUAN: OK. It is so sad that so many fact checks are needed and I'm so thankful for you, Daniel Dale, thank you.

DALE: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us. What happened to the second graders who were witnesses to a moment that changed the world? A new CNN special report on the classroom that was with President Bush on 9/11, that's next.


BOLDUAN: Next weekend marks 20 years since the 9/11 attacks changed the world. And CNN has a new special report airing Sunday. Looking at how the terror attacks shaped the lives of a special group of children now adults. They were the second grade classroom that President Bush was visiting. That iconic and very memorable image when he was told that the attack had just taken place. They saw this historic moment from such a unique vantage point and it unfolded before their eyes.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom, she took a little bit of extra time getting me prepared for the day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The children were facing President Bush and myself.

BLACKWELL: School kids with a front row to history.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he walked in our room, I was like, oh, my gosh, that's him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could touch him if I wanted to reach out.

BLACKWELL: Until the unimaginable happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A plane has crashed into one of the towers there where --

BLACKWELL: Innocence lost.

BUSH: Join me in a moment of silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just kept saying, a terrorist attack, a terrorist attack.

BLACKWELL: Twenty years later. Do you think that that day affected your life who you are today?

UNIDENTFIED MALE: I want to leave Sarasota after high school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not many people would have thought I would have become a cop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had my stumbles, you know, I've been to prison twice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's always going to be a part of our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was only 16 of us with him. We get to be the people that tell the story.

BLACKWELL: Tonight their stories in a CNN special report. Front Row to History: The 9/11 Classroom.


BOLDUAN: And joining me now is the man behind this special CNN anchor Victor Blackwell. Victor, what did -- give me a little bit of a window into what this class, these kids now adults, what they told you about the impact of 9/11 on them?

BLACKWELL: Yes, I mean, this is a story that few people have heard and they're still 20 years later, trying to dissect the answer to that question and find it. Some have gone into law enforcement, some left Sarasota and came straight to New York. We know that the teacher, Ms. Daniels, who still is teaching today, still keeps in communication with her babies, as she calls them. She said it had a massive impact on them. And they all remember that day.

The President was coming to congratulate them for getting better grades and reading. And when he walked in, one girl put her hand over a heart like she was pledging allegiance to the flag. She thought that was just the right thing to do when the President shows up. But another boy thought, maybe he's like a king, he'll have a crown, there'll be trumpets. And then George Bush walks in, President Bush, and moments later, you saw that whisper from Andy Card. And the teacher says that he left her, that the President left her for a moment but came back. And of course, we all know what happened in the moments after that, the President had to leave.

But this moment, they have been reluctant for a while to talk about this because there's an element of what they call something like survivor's guilt that they're so close to this, but everyone else who has an intimate story about 9/11 experienced some loss. So they've taken some time to come together and tell this story and we're going to have it on Sunday night.

BOLDUAN: Did they surprise you when you sat down and spoke with them?

BLACKWELL: Oh, yes. I mean, there were several surprises. There was a moment after the news broke that day in 2001 that the teacher, Mrs. Daniels, had to decide what to do. She's got this classroom of seven year olds, her babies, and she decided to sing to them a song that she had sung to them before, "Hold On, Change is Coming." And as she started to sing it in this interview, the children chimed in as well at the same part to which they sang 20 years ago. And in those small voices that they had as young children, that to me was a surprise that they still remembered that moment, so many years afterward.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It really shows the mark that it left.


BOLDUAN: You know, they went through something so unique. It's such a young age together. Do they have a connection to one another, still?

BLACKWELL: A few of them, a few of them keep in contact. But, you know, 20 years after the second grade, of course, a lot of us lose contact, but they do still keep in contact with as some of them call her Mama Kay, Mrs. Daniels, the teacher who was with him that day, you saw the pictures of her holding them tight and them all smiling there, that connection still lasts two decades later.

BOLDUAN: She seems like a very special person. I'm looking forward to hearing more about that. Victor, thanks so much for coming to give us a preview. I'm looking forward to seeing it. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: And you can watch our CNN special report, Front Row to History: The 9/11 Classroom. It airs Sunday night 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.


So thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Kate Bolduan. It has been a busy two hours, a lot more to come, much more breaking news as well as the aftermath and cleanup now of Hurricane Ida. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after this quick break.