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At This Hour

Moderna Seeks Authorization For COVID Vaccine For Youngest Kids; Ukrainian Ski Resort Opens Its Doors To Displaced Citizens; United States To Accept 100,000 Ukrainian Refugees. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 11:30   ET



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So there were big moments that people really enjoyed let alone the song from Encanto, with a really splashy number, with lots of colors. You also had 3 hosts back. Remember, two had Oscars without hosts. So we had hosts back and there were three comedians who were really doing their best to kind of keep the show moving along until everything fell off the rails.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Yes, and that -- yes. That's it. That's a good way to put it. It's good to see you. Thank you so much. It's really great to see you.

ELAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up for us, the FDA could soon approve a second COVID booster shot. Who will be eligible to get it? I'm going to talk to Moderna's top doctor, next.



BOLDUAN: Turning now to the pandemic. 11 million people in Shanghai, China are under a new lockdown today after the city reported a record 3500 cases on Sunday. Chinese authorities are conducting mass testing for half the city over the next four days, then the other half goes into lockdown to do the same at the end of the week. China report it is in the middle of its worst surge since the pandemic began caused in part by the omicron sub-variant.

Here in the United States, COVID case -- COVID Case rates remain steady. But with new concern about that Omicron sub-variant, there is renewed push right now underway for another round of booster shots. The FDA is expected to also authorize this week a second booster for people aged 50 and older of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

Moderna, putting in the formal request just last week for that second booster but also in doing so, asked to include everyone 18 and older in the authorization. So where is this headed? How many shots do you need? Joining me right now is Dr. Paul Burton. He's the chief medical officer for Moderna. Dr. Burton, thank you for being here. Really appreciate it. Let's start on this booster news.


BOLDUAN: What do you think of -- what do you think a second booster for people 50 and older really means for blunting further spread? Do you think it's necessary?

BURTON: Kate, I do. Look, we've seen all along with the natural history of less disease than this virus and it's able to make these very large evolutionary changes that bring with it immune evasion. I think the only way that we're going to get to a period of stability and ultimately to an endemic disease is to keep people protected, keep their antibody levels up. And I'm afraid that means regular boosting for now.

BOLDUAN: One concern behind this expected move is this Omicron sub- variant that's currently hitting Western European countries. Do you think the Omicron sub-variant poses a major threat?

BURTON: I do, Kate, for a couple of reasons. And I would say look, we're also seeing it here in the United States, cases certainly going up in New York, other major metropolitan areas around the country. The issue with Omicron and with BA.2 is twofold. One is its infectivity. It has certainly a far higher ability to infect than Delta ever had.

People who get Delta can get reinfected with Omicron, now with BA.2 as well. And it's certainly a severe disease. You know, it's been described as mild. What we're seeing from the data is that that's not the case that can cause severe disease and a couple of that with the transmissibility in the caseloads. That's what brings health systems into trouble. So it's a severe disease.

BOLDUAN: So when people say it's more transmissible but not causing more severe illness, you don't as -- you don't take comfort in that?

BURTON: No. Because, Kate, I think there's a couple of things. It does still cause severe disease right across the age range. And as people get older, even though we know that more vulnerable populations, older people, people with immunocompromised, they will be severely impacted with Omicron. But it's also the transmissibility. It's -- BA.2 is perhaps 50 or 60 percent more transmissible even than Omicron, and we know that that was markedly more transmissible than Delta. So the volume of cases that this will bring to healthcare systems is what's particularly troubling.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So there's also potentially very major news with Moderna's vaccine and young children, the only group still not eligible for any COVID vaccine. New data that you've already released from your studies of the vaccine in children under six years old are showing a strong immune response but also the data shows only about 40 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID. Can you talk me through this, what you're seeing in your studies and why then about 40 percent is good enough? BURTON: Yes. So, Kate, first of all, I would say that look, as a dad and a physician, you know, what we always look at first is safety. And the safety results in this study, 7000 children were enrolled, 5000 of them got the vaccine, two-quarter dose, 25 micrograms given a month apart.

Safety was very reassuring, exactly what we've seen in the past, and rates of high temperature, high fever above 40 degrees centigrade only seen in point 2 percent of the kids so that's very reassuring. What we wanted to do was show that the antibody levels that we see here were essentially the same as we see in young adults, those aged 18 to 24 and we found that to be exactly the case so that's really reassuring.


BURTON: So, then as you say vaccine effectiveness, I think people are used to seeing with the Moderna vaccine effectiveness in the 95-100 percent range and as you say, we saw lower rates here. And it's because the study was conducted in a period of almost exclusive Omicron predominance. We know that that is a very different virus, has a lot of immune escape.

So we fully predicted to see lower rates of vaccine effectiveness. But that level of antibody, Kate, is what is so reassuring, it's what will really keep kids protected against severe disease. And as you say, right now, they have no other treatment options. So they're really at high unmet medical need.

BOLDUAN: Yes. What's your working assumption, then on when you'll formally put in for the AUE with this? And when you realistically think as every parent out there is wondering, as we talk about the science, when do you realistically think young kids can -- will start being able to get shots in the arms?

BURTON: Yes. So, Kate, look, it's a huge priority for us. We have teams all around the world on this working literally 24 hours a day. So we're going to be trying to submit the application formally to the FDA and other regulators around the world just as soon as we can, I think in a small number of weeks, as soon as we possibly can. And I think, you know, regulators, governments recognize, as you say, this is a public health issue. No other therapy right now, no other vaccination available. So I think they will also try and act quickly on the data.

BOLDUAN: Moderna also still does not have authorization for your shot for anyone under 18 years old. Where does that stand, and I'm just kind of wondering how that lines up or fits in then with the six months to the five-year group?

BURTON: Yes. So, Kate, we're approved for -- or authorized for under 18s -- 12 to 18s. In fact, six to 18-year-olds in Europe, now Australia, Canada, other countries around the world. I think the FDA are eager to look at these data across the whole spectrum of age that we have now. We recently submitted our six to 12-year-old children data, and we updated our adolescent, the 12 to 18-year-old data with more safety data. So and we now have a very, very robust package of data. It's safe,

it's highly effective. And again, as we're now going back into this next BA.2 and Omicron surge, being able to show that effectiveness that we can safely deliver, I think the FDA and other regulators around the world will continue to want to see those data and take action on them.

BOLDUAN: And then the -- and then the next part of it is then convincing hesitant parents of this youngest group that they need to get it and they need to get their children. As you said, as a father, you understand it very well. Thank you very much, Dr. Burton. Really appreciate your time.

BURTON: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Coming up for us, an unlikely place of refuge for Ukrainians fleeing the war, CNN takes you there next.



BOLDUAN: The United Nations now says more than 3.8 million Ukrainians have fled since Russia's invasion. Countless others are also displaced within the country's borders trying to escape unrelenting attacks. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz takes us to a mountain resort now turns a safe haven for thousands.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voiceover): Nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains, far from the bombs and bullets, lies the idyllic ski resort of slough scope with plenty of room for those fleeing violence to find solace in the slopes, many hotels have opened their doors to displaced families, some at no cost or discounted rates. Guests, Staicy and Ramir found refuge here after Russian forces invaded their hometown of Kharkiv.

RAMIR HOLUBOV, FLED KHARKIV: During this time, they're usually hurt. Like shells blowing up, lots of bombardment.

ABDELAZIZ: How did you feel when you arrived?

STAICY CHERNILEVSKAIA, FLED KHARKIV: When you look at these mountains and into the news, it seems like not real.

HOLUBOV: And you're here you're safe. I feel kind of guilty because in the beginning, with all my family there.

ABDELAZIZ: After a terrifying week, mom and daughter finally squeezed onto a train out of embattled Kyiv, but where to go? Then, they remembered a special family trip.

LARYSA KOVALYOVA: Yes, we loved this place because our summertime, we provide here.

ABDELAZIZ: So you had good memories here?

LARYSA KOVALYOVA: Good memories. We have good memory -- we had good memories in this place.

DIANA KOVALYOVA, FLED KYIV: I feel safe here. But I hope that this will end soon and we'll go home because living at home was much better because it's my home.

ABDELAZIZ: This tiny mountain community of Slavsko has taken in 3400 displaced people, nearly doubling their population, but they say it's not a burden. They want to share the sanctuary. Some have chosen less traditional accommodations also found peace for their two children in this glamping pod.

OLESYA MATIUSHENKO, FLED KYIV: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When my daughter wakes up every morning, opens the curtains, wipes the dew from the windows, and looks out at the view. She tells me yes she loves it here, it's calming, I feel lighter, and I start to believe everything is going to be OK.

ABDELAZIZ: For these families, this feels like the safest place and a country where it seems everywhere is a friend of mine. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Slavsko, Ukraine.



BOLDUAN: It's so nice to see them some smiles. It really is. More than half of the Ukrainian refugees who have fled have gone to neighboring Poland. President Biden announced just last week that the U.S. will be accepting up to 100,000 refugees coming from Ukraine. How does that start? When does that start? How will it work? Joining me now is someone who will know Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a major refugee resettlement organization in the U.S., thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: So, the Biden administration is pledged to welcome up to 100,000. But there are real questions on how they pull it off in a timely way, considering just how bogged down the immigration system is already. I mean, what questions do you have? Is it doable?

VIGNARAJAH: It's a great question because it is doable, but it requires a commitment of resources and a plan right now. Unfortunately, though, the President has made this commitment, it's not clear whether it's time-bound, what specific pathways the U.S. will use.

And the reality is this is similar to an announcement that was made with respect to refugee resettlement, where the president said that we would resettle up to 125,000 refugees coming from all over the world. And we're six months into it, and we've only resettled less than 8000 refugees. In terms of Ukrainian refugees were at the end of March, and this month, we've only resettled about a dozen Ukrainian refugees.

BOLDUAN: Those numbers are important. A pledge of 100 -- up to 125,000, and only 8,000 in 6 months, that shows a huge challenge to keep that promise and pledge. And your Organization's worked for decades to help refugees find a new home in the U.S. What will people fleeing need most?

VIGNARAJAH: We know that the majority who will come here are like those that we've seen in Poland, 90 percent are women and children, their lives have been shattered and so the mental health needs are going to be significant, and of course, the reality is they won't be able to return to their home anytime soon and so integrating even on a temporary basis means for mothers finding childcare so that they can get jobs.

For children, they've been out of school for about a month now. And so returning to school helps return to normalcy. And so trying to figure out whether that's here in the U.S. or in Europe, how we can help? I think is going to be two of the most critical concerns.

BOLDUAN: And, Krish, when you talk about kind of the fraction of the number of refugees allowed in, despite promises, is it breaking a promise? Is it falling flat on it? What is the holdup?

VIGNARAJAH: We've got to remember that when the Biden administration came into power, they inherited a system that was decimated under the Trump administration, over a third of the offices across the national infrastructure were close. So it has been a matter of rebuilding, restarting those offices, hiring new folks. But the truth is after a year now, the administration has to own the fact that there are backlogs overseas, that we haven't built the pathways to allow for refugees to come. And I think that is going to be critical as we try to think about 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

BOLDUAN: And you know, during Biden's visit to Poland, the administrator, Samantha Power of USAID said something striking that the displacement of people that we saw over four years in Syria could be seen in Ukraine in a little more than a month. I mean, what do you think when you hear that?

VIGNARAJAH: It's accurate. The refugee crisis we're seeing today is like nothing we've seen in Europe since World War Two. We're talking about well over 3.8 million who have left the country, more than 6.5 million who are displaced, who are running for their lives, who, frankly, will try to get out of the country and we suspect at some point in the near future.

What that means is that, since this crisis began, every second there has become a refugee child. And so this is like 2015, where we've got to realize that European nations are going to bear the brunt for months, if not years to come and that's why it's so critical that the U.S. step up and play a role as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the numbers can be overwhelming, almost a little numbing when you hear it, but you put it into context so importantly, well. Thank you, Krish. I really appreciate it. VIGNARAJAH: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: So for more information on how you can help the people of Ukraine go to Now, before we go today, starting tomorrow, you can catch me here, of course, and also on CNN's new streaming service, CNN Plus. Join me each morning on CNN Plus for 5 things, the five stories you need to know to get your day going. 7 a.m. Eastern and always available on-demand, you can sign up at Thank you so much for being here today, everybody. CNN's coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine continues on INSIDE POLITICS after this break.