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At This Hour

Now: FDA Advisory Committee Meets To Consider J&J Booster Shot; Bill Clinton Hospitalized But "On The Mend" From Infection; January 6th Panel Moves To Hold Steve Bannon In Criminal Contempt. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin this hour of breaking news on the pandemic. The White House just announced fully vaccinated foreign visitors can enter the United States beginning next month, lifting a ban on travelers from the U.K., the E.U., and other countries.

This big milestone comes nearly two years after then President Donald Trump first started cutting off travel from China in a failed effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading across the United States. And that move was the first of what became a wave of travel restrictions severely limiting who could come to the United States. CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House with this for us. John, what more are you hearing about this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is a move that European countries and other countries around the world, South Africa, the U.K., E.U. countries, as you mentioned, have been very impatient for, that the airline industry has been very impatient for. They've had a very difficult time building back up their international business.

And the United States, the Biden administration in particular, is also impatient for it. Why? Because they want every sign that they have to demonstrate to the American people that life is getting back to normal in the pandemic.

Now we see cases going down, hospitalizations and deaths going down. Finally, after that summer surge of the Delta variant, things are moving in the right direction. And the administration by opening up travel for, if you're on a flight, you've got to have a proof of vaccination and a negative test. If you're traveling by land, you don't have to have that negative test. But this is something that the administration wants to tout as a way of showing that we're getting closer to the other side of the pandemic.

And it's consistent with the message that they're sending domestically, which is both from the federal government and the private employers, vaccinations are required. That's the way to get around the pandemic and the more that the United States can emphasize that both internationally and domestically that we need to get vaccination rates up, the quicker we get to the other side.

BOLDUAN: John Harwood, thank you so much.

Also happening this hour, advisors to the FDA are meeting right now to consider whether to authorize booster shots for millions of millions more Americans. This time, it's those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Just yesterday, the FDA advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend authorization for Moderna's booster shot. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is back with us. She's watching this. Elizabeth, walk us through what's going to happen today.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, they're going to have the same sort of investigation into all the details about whether boosters are necessary, whether they're helpful, whether they're effective, whether they're safe, but this time the discussion will be about Johnson & Johnson instead of Moderna or Pfizer. So Pfizer now if you've had Pfizer more than six months ago, when you fall into certain high risk categories, you can get a booster as we speak.

Yesterday that was set in motion for Moderna, and now they're looking at Johnson & Johnson. I was speaking with the chair of the Committee that's doing this work, a panel of outside vaccine advisors to the FDA. And he said look, it's really important for Johnson & Johnson that people get that second shot. Let's take a look at what Donald -- Dr. Arnold Monto had to say. He told me it's critical to get the J&J people more protected. They are starting at a lower level of protection.

Let's take a look at what Dr. Monto meant. Moderna and Pfizer soon after your original shots with them, you're about 94 to 95 percent effective -- protected against getting sick with COVID-19. But for Johnson & Johnson soon after vaccination, it's 72 percent. That's still a good number, but it's not as good as Moderna and Pfizer. That's why Dr. Monto said that.

Also at this meeting, we're expected to hear a discussion about mixing and matching. For example, if you got Johnson & Johnson the first time around, let's say six months ago, could you now get a Pfizer or Moderna booster? It's just a discussion, no decisions will be made. What's interesting is that a study, a relatively small study of about 450 people, it actually showed the folks who got Johnson & Johnson the first time they were actually better off if their booster were Pfizer or Moderna. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Thank you, Elizabeth. We're going to be watching this. Elizabeth is tracking these meetings very closely for us. Joining me right now in the meantime, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, former health commissioner for the City of Baltimore, so Dr. Wen, we know Pfizer's booster got the green light. Moderna is, you know, the same headed there. Is it given in your mind that Johnson & Johnson's booster will be authorized as well?

[11:05:08] DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It really needs to be because first of all, there are 15 million Americans, myself included, who got the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, who have really had no guidance throughout even though we're seeing the data come out that the one dose regimen is not nearly as effective as the two doses of Pfizer or Moderna.

Also remember that back in August, immunocompromised individuals were told if they got Pfizer or Moderna, they can go ahead and get that third dose. Immunocompromised people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have not been told that even at that very basic level. So I would really hope that what the FDA does today at the minimum is to harmonize the J&J recommendations with Pfizer and Moderna. To reduce confusion, they should, at the very -- at the minimum, say that Johnson & Johnson recipients should also be able to get a booster six months out.

Now there's a question of maybe they should get a booster sooner. Maybe also, as Elizabeth was reporting, they should be able to receive a mix and match approach with Pfizer or Moderna. I hope that that's also the case. But at a baseline, they should at least be told that they can also get a booster six months after that initial shot.

BOLDUAN: What you say so interesting, because I've heard some doctor saying for a while now that J&J should really be considered a two dose vaccine because of what is being seen in terms of waning immunity. What do you think of that, because part of the draw to the J&J shot for so many was the convenience factor?

WEN: That's right. And I still think that if I have a patient, for example, who I know is not going to get follow through, they're not going to come back for a second dose of the vaccine, and they will really just get one vaccine, then I would still recommend the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to that person because one dose of J&J appears to be longer lasting to provide better protection than one dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

But at the same time, we also know that one dose of J&J is just less effective, even at baseline compared to the two doses of Pfizer and Moderna. And so I think there's an open question of should the J&J vaccine actually be at least a two dose series. I'm not sure if that's what the FDA is going to get to in their conversations today. But I know that there are lots of recipients who just really want to know, what about me? What should I be doing now?

BOLDUAN: Yes. And I think an important number in all of this is what the CDC just put out, a kind of, it's just kind of reframes things that I think are an important way that unvaccinated adults in the United States is unvaccinated face an 11 times higher risk of dying from COVID than fully vaccinated people. And six times higher risk of getting COVID. This is from data that the CDC compiled in August. But what we're also seeing is that the number of booster shots being given is outpacing the number of first shots. What do you see in this?

WEN: Well, of course, from a public health standpoint, we need to get the unvaccinated vaccinated, that's what's going to make the biggest difference in terms of driving down infection numbers and hospitalizations across the country. But that said, the vaccinated are being put at risk because of the high level of virus around us. And there are a lot of vaccinated people who want to get an additional level of protection as a result.

I would want to get a booster as soon as that's allowed. And I think that it's -- I actually don't think it's a problem that we have a large number of people getting booster doses. I do think, though, that it's a problem that we're not getting as many people their first doses.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, when you hear 11 times higher risk of dying from COVID, that's, I mean, that's something that should that should impact a lot of people if you're unvaccinated, you know, there's another important aspect of this, which is still remains unanswered. It gets a little bit you and I've talked about this a little bit, which is, what is the goal of these vaccines?

You know, Paul Offit, Dr. Offit he raised this again yesterday and saying, is the goal to protect against serious illness or is it to try and prevent getting infected in the first place? Why is this an important thing to get worked out? Where do you land on it?

WEN: To me, this is not a scientific question. This is a value judgment, as in people like Dr. Offit, and I'm sure there are many Americans would say, hey, as long as I don't get very sick and don't end up in the hospital from COVID, I'm fine. I may not need to get a booster dose. But there are plenty of other people and I am in that second camp who would say I don't want to get COVID at all. There's the potential for long haul symptoms. Also, if I get ill, even if I'm not hospitalized, I have young kids. I don't want to transmit COVID to them. Also, I don't want to be out of commission and unable to work and unable to care for my children.

There are a lot of us who want to get a booster for that reason. I do not think that it's the role of the federal government and our federal health officials to be telling Americans how we should value our lives and our ability to get ill or prevent sickness, the role of our federal government should be the same. Are these vaccines safe and effective is a booster safe and effective. If it is, then allow Americans to make that decision for themselves.


BOLDUAN: Merck on Monday requested emergency authorization for its antiviral pill. This is a treatment pill if you get infected. You argue that even if this treatment might deter some from getting vaccinated because they would have a really effective way of going -- not getting too sick, you still argue if that deters people, even if it deters some people from getting vaccinated, that's no reason to hold back on approval. Why is that?

WEN: Because we don't do that for any other aspect of medicine. We don't say to people well, because there might be cardiac bypass surgery available that might make someone not treat their blood pressure seriously that could prevent that bypass from happening, right? We don't say that because we know that treatment and prevention have to go hand in hand.

Of course, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent people from getting COVID through vaccination. And I strongly believe in everything we need to do including vaccine requirements in order to get there. But there are still going to be people who are unvaccinated. It's our job as physicians in the medical system to treat these individuals. Also, there's some people who are vaccinated who could still have breakthrough infections.

And if they are medically fragile, if they're immunocompromised, they might need to take these treatments as well to prevent serious illness. That's really what medicine is about. We do not incentivize with treatment or sorry, we do not incentivize prevention by denying people treatment. We recognize that we have to do both.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here Dr. Wen.

WEN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I want to turn now to an update on another big health story that we were cracking today. Former President Bill Clinton he is still in the ICU at a hospital in Southern California. Clinton has been treated for a urinary tract infection. His doctors say spread to his bloodstream. He's been in the hospital since Tuesday. Let's get an update. But we really learned about it just overnight. CNN's Sara Sidner, she's live outside the hospital in Irvine, California. Sara, what are you hearing this morning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot of activity that we are seeing that's unusual this morning with a lot of dark SUVs and it looks like Secret Service members that have just pulled up in the area where the President would be coming out. We know that former President Clinton has been here as you said since Tuesday night. He was feeling fatigued. And it was decided he needed to come to the hospital, that doctor saying that he had a urinary tract infection that indeed he had an infection in his bloodstream, which can be very dangerous and even fatal at something like sepsis.

But in the last day, he has been doing very well. They said he is on the mend. He has been making jokes and laughing and being able to walk around and talk with folks. And so he is doing much better. They have been having him on an IV drip, also giving him fluids intravenously, but he is doing better. And so there is a lot of speculation as to whether or not he will stay today for observation or whether he may be released.

We do know that Hillary Clinton did come and go in the last couple of days. There is -- there are images of her coming into this hospital here at U.C. Irvine Medical Center. And we also are well aware that, you know, the doctors are clear in saying that he did not come here with a COVID infection. He does not have COVID. But he had some of the symptoms of COVID though, that was due to the fact that he had an infection in his bloodstream. So he seems to be doing much better. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, many more updates to come. Sara, thank you for being there.


Coming up still for us at this hour, Steve Bannon in the spotlight and under pressure, the congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol now ready to pursue criminal contempt.


BOLDUAN: This just in, a British lawmaker was stabbed to death as he met with constituents at a local church. Police say they arrested a suspect at the scene. There's still much to be learned as this is developing as we speak. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live in London with the very latest. Salma, what's the latest that you're hearing about this?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Kate this news is shocking. It is devastating and is absolutely sent this country reeling. What we do know is that a well-known lawmaker Conservative MP Sir David Amess was stabbed during essentially what were open office hours. It all unfolded around noon local time, in the county of Essex, just neighboring London. Amess was holding again these office hours to invite voters to speak to him. He was holding this at a church.

And just after noon local time, a 25-year-old man entered that church and stabbed MP David Amess multiple times. They were eyewitnesses at the scene according to local media who quickly called the police. Ambulances arrived to the church tried to revive Member of Parliament Sir David Amess. Unfortunately, he died at the scene according to local media. They were air ambulances overhead that were unable to reach him in time. And the police did then of course arrest and take into custody that 25-year-old male suspect.

Now of course we have many questions. Right now we do not know the name of the suspect or his motivations, but we do understand that the police have him in custody. They are looking for no one further at this time. And now the country begins to try to understand what happened. Kate?


BOLDUAN: Salma, thank you very much. We'll stay close to this. Really appreciate it.

Back here in the United States, the House Committee investigating the Capitol riot has a message. Hiding behind claims of executive privilege is not going to fly this time. The Committee's lead is now moving to hold Trump advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt after he defied their subpoena to testify, rejecting his position, Bannon's position that the choice isn't up to him. It's something he argues needs to be worked out with former President Donald Trump. The Committee at least for now is not buying that. So where is this headed?

Joining me right now is CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Paula, so where is this headed now?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it's a very lengthy process, and one that is not undertaken very often. But the first step is likely to occur on Tuesday when lawmakers are expected to hold a business meeting where they will move to adopt a report detailing how they tried to get Bannon to cooperate and how he refused.

Now, once they adopt that report, it moves to the House for a vote. If it succeeds there, it moves on to the Justice Department, specifically the U.S. Attorney's Office to possibly put this issue before a grand jury. But ultimately, the decision lies with the Attorney General Merrick Garland if he wants to really move forward with this.

Now Bannon has repeatedly argued that he will not cooperate unless ordered to do so by a judge. He says he's been directed by Trump not to participate, because he wants to raise issues of privilege, though it's not clear at this point, if he's going to do that. Now, if he is prosecuted, there is a trial. If he is found guilty, a lot of ifs there, Kate, if that happens, he could face fines and or jail time. Again, this is incredibly rare. But I'm told even by lawyers within the Trump orbit, that jail is potentially a possibility here.

BOLDUAN: The ifs, Jennifer, is kind of where I'm stuck, as Paula lays out really well. I mean, I still have real questions of how much teeth a congressional subpoena and thus a criminal contempt really has. I mean, how do you see this moving next?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's interesting, because Bannon is the one to try this with, because he has the least effective claim of executive privilege. So they're counting on the fact that DOJ is going to be first of all willing to proceed period when we really haven't seen any indication that Merrick Garland wants to move forward with these kinds of investigations.

But second, that they're willing to say that there is no possible legal basis here for the assertion of executive privilege. Because if there is, they can't prove as a criminal matter that this violation by Bannon was willful. So they're taking a bit of a risk in sending it over to DOJ now. But, you know, they'll have to analyze it and see what they think. But there's not really a clearer case, than Brandon's case for doing this now holding him criminally responsible for this violation of his subpoena.

BOLDUAN: Right, because Bannon, and Paula check me on my dates here, Bannon left the administration in 2017. So obviously, he was not with the administration on January 6th what is being investigated or even near it. Paula, is there a way to avoid this going to court and then very possibly stalling for quite some time?

REID: Well, Kate, the Committee knew. They were likely to get a fight from this first group of subpoenas that they issued, these for Trump allies, they were specifically targeted, because they were -- it was believed that these folks would likely resist and they wanted to allow time to resolve this. Now, there are other options. Certainly the Committee could pursue civil action, but they said they don't want to do that. I mean, that's something that they pursued multiple times during the Trump administration. And those civil claims would also often be tied up in the courts for months, even years. Now, of course, another way to not go to court is to come up with some sort of agreement, some sort of accommodation between the two parties, a way to resolve this without going to court.

Bannon could also show up if he wanted to and plead the Fifth. But the real risk here is clearly the Committee wants to send a message to any witnesses who defy their subpoenas in this investigation. But there is always a chance that if this goes all the way, if this goes all the way to trial, he could be found not guilty, and that sends a very different message than the one they've intended.

BOLDUAN: Yes, yes. All the scenarios that you're laying out is like a graphic that I can't even envision right now, Paula. Jennifer as Thursday, as for yesterday, about the possibility of subpoenaing Donald Trump in all of this, the Chair of this Committee, Bennie Thompson, he told Wolf Blitzer the following. He said, quote, nobody is off limits to a subpoena from this Committee. Is that a realistic possibility?

RODGERS: It's hard to say. I don't think that they will do it. Or at least they won't do it until they've gotten testimony from everyone else around the President. All of the documents, all of the timeline, elements, and all of the people who were with him on that day and working with him and others in connection with the time leading up to January 6th.


So I think by the time they do all about they will run out of time to try to subpoena the President. But I guess they're saying nothing's impossible. So in a fantasy world where they get all this done, maybe we could see him in front of that Select Committee, but I'm not holding my breath.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's this, this whole mash of in a very important investigation, mashing up to a very unclear process. Very -- there's a lot of vagaries when it comes to executive privilege, and just how long the court system takes to work, which is in opposition to how long the politics and the campaign season is. It's good to see you guys, thanks so much.

Coming up for us, President Biden is heading to Connecticut today to promote his economic agenda. Up next, I'm going to talk to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont about why this visit is so important to him and the state, what he wants to hear from the President.