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Pennsylvania Counties Face 5 P.M. Deadline In Primary Election; CDC Issues New Monkeypox Warning As More Potential Cases Found; FDA Panel Schedules To Review Vaccine Data For Youngest Kids. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 24, 2022 - 11:30   ET



REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): And I know that some of the other manufacturers besides Abbott have started ramping up, we need to get that happening and Abbott also needs to get some of its other facilities producing formula. But also, this particular facility in Michigan has been a problematic facility for over a decade. I want to know why Abbott let these problems languish, knowing that it was producing 45 percent of this nation's formula.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this also gets to a key question. We -- as the FDA has testified and is going to also be at this hearing as well. From what you've seen so far, do you think the FDA moved too slowly to respond to an -- or -- and see this crisis coming?

DEGETTE: Well, you know, the FDA is the Food and Drug Administration, but yet they put a lot less effort and money into the food part of that. And the first complaints, in this case, were made way back in September, but yet the consent decree wasn't entered into until just last week and so you've got to wonder, especially when you're talking about something so critical, like baby formula, why did it take so long?

After the first whistleblower complaint, why did it take from September to now end of May to get this recognized and taken care of? So that's one of the issues we're going to be exploring as well at the hearing.

BOLDUAN: It does deserve exploring because I had the HHS Secretary on and he said from the information he has before him now he thinks the FDA moved appropriately, so I think that is a key question. And you talked about two months, you just said it -- people can't be driving around for two more months looking for formula.

The administration, so far, has not provided an answer on what the timeline is that they are working with for things to be back to normal. The HHS Secretary, as I mentioned, he says -- when he was on my show, he said that the timeline is on Abbott. Do you expect that these manufacturers will provide you with a clear timeline, especially Abbott tomorrow when this will be over?

DEGETTE: When the consent decree was negotiated, what Abbott said is it would take two weeks to do the cleaning of the facility, which I support that. But then it -- then they said it would take six more weeks to ramp up the supply and that's what where I come up with the two months, which is unacceptable.

So, what's going to have to happen is a couple of things. It's an all- hands-on-deck situation. Number one, Abbott's other facilities are going to have to start producing this formula. Number two, other companies are going to have to step up. And number three, we're going to have to continue to try to get safe supplies from other company -- countries, like in Europe, like we're doing right now.

So, it really is going to be all hands on deck because for these little infants, for all of the little infants who rely on formula, there's just no substitute. You can't go down to your kitchen and whip something up. It's not safe for them. So we're going to have to really treat this like the emergency it is, and we just can't rely on, on the manufacturers to say, well, it's going to take a couple of months, and then maybe we'll get it back. We need -- we need the product for these families right now.

BOLDUAN: Well, and people need answers because as you said, this is an all-hands on deck. This is all hands on deck in terms of the manufacturers, in terms of the administration, and in terms of what Congress can do. The Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, he calls this industry a series of monopolies. And he has said that it is something that he thinks the administration should take a look at. But what about Congress, should Abbott's dominance in this market be investigated?

DEGETTE: Absolutely. And that's another question we're going to look at because one of the reasons why Abbott has a 45 percent share of the market is because they get a preferential contract under the WIC program. That's the program for women and children to provide a formula for low-income families. So we have to look at is that really a good way to proceed in a supply chain crisis, and should we be doing other things?

The other thing, I think, we need to look at as Congress is, are we giving enough authorities, and enough money to the FDA to really -- to have a robust Food Safety Inspection Program? This is something my subcommittee has worked on for years because we feel like food safety has been neglected at the FDA, not just -- not just now, but for many, many years.

BOLDUAN: I will say this is where oversight. This is where Congress's job comes -- becomes most important, oversight when -- especially when a crisis that should be avoidable when a crisis like this unfolds. Very much looking forward to what answers the tough questions are asked and what answers these manufacturers can provide tomorrow. Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming on.

DEGETTE: Thanks, Kate. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: That hearing tomorrow, we will keep a close eye on that and bring it -- bring what we can to you. Coming up for us still today, Pennsylvania's Republican -- Pennsylvania Republicans are still waiting to find out who won last week's Senate primary that we have covered.


BOLDUAN: A recount, looking likely the person that will make that call the top election official in the state is our guest.



BOLDUAN: County election officials in Pennsylvania have until 5:00 p.m. today to hand over their unofficial vote tallies from last week's Senate primary. The Republican primaries were everyone's eyes still are today, because it has been a nail-biter and remains that way. Less than a thousand votes separate Mehmet Oz and David McCormick right now. The race likely headed to a recount, but let's get the very latest from the top election official in the -- in the -- in the Commonwealth. Joining me now is the acting secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Leigh Chapman. Thank you so much for being here.


BOLDUAN: So, first and foremost, how many uncounted votes remain?

CHAPMAN: You know, there's still a few uncounted ballots that remain. Right now, counties are canvassing provisional ballots, military, and overseas ballots, so it's not a large number it's a very small amount. But we will have unofficial returns today at 5 p.m., that's when all 67 counties will be sending me a document that they signed with the unofficial returns.

BOLDUAN: CNN's best estimate right now is there's fewer than 10,000 left to be counted somewhere between 4000 and 7500 votes left to be counted, does that track?

CHAPMAN: That tracks. And, you know, some of them are also undated ballots as well. So the Department issued guidance to all 67 counties earlier this morning, telling them that the department's position is that those undated ballots should be counted. So that's part of that number as well.

BOLDUAN: And that's an important change in guidance or maybe just clarity in guidance because David McCormick's campaign has actually gone to court to ask that even these ballots that are missing dates that they be counted. It's leaning on a court ruling having to do with an unrelated race from last year and in this guidance, you say to count them and set them aside, how many ballots is that?

CHAPMAN: Sure. So we sent a survey to all 67 counties on Friday, when this court decision from the Third Circuit came down because it's important, you know, in my role as Acting Secretary of State to support the counties and give them as much guidance as possible.

So we sent out a survey, and right now it's looking like there are 62 counties that have responded out of the 67 counties and there are around 4400 undated ballots. The breakdown currently is around 3600 Democrats, which are about 700 Republicans. So it certainly looks like even with these undated ballots, we'll be heading to a recount in the statewide Senate race in Pennsylvania.

BOLDUAN: So I was going to -- I was going to -- I was going to ask you, and not that you go on your gut when you're counting elect -- when you're counting votes, but your gut and what direction is this headed now to a recount?

CHAPMAN: Our gut is that it's very likely that this is headed towards a recount. You know, in Pennsylvania, the recount law is when the margin is within half of 1 percent. Right now, it's looking like we're within point 1 percent, so as far as timeline, you know as we mentioned today, at five o'clock, counties are sending me the unofficial returns. Part of that will also be the undated ballot counts.

Then tomorrow, Wednesday at noon, that's when candidates can waive whether or not they want to have a recount. And then on Wednesday, tomorrow, I'm also expected to announce the recount and issue an order on Thursday with the recount to start as early as Friday this week.

BOLDUAN: Recount starting as early as Friday of this week. So --


BOLDUAN: Secretary, neither campaign is insinuating anything wrong has happened, anything unfair or illegal is happening with a -- with a vote count so far. Yet, the reason I -- the reason I say that is because the former President, Donald Trump, he is waiting with some advice for his preferred candidate Mehmet Oz and I want to read what he said in a statement.

He said Dr. Oz should declare victory. He said this just the day after the election. Dr. Oz should declare victory. It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they just happened to find. What's your response to that as the person overseeing this vote count and calling this election?

CHAPMAN: You know, votes are still being counted. The certification deadline isn't until June 6, so it's premature to declare victory. Counties have not gone through a recount. So what I want to say is, you know, at the Department of State, you know, it's important that we are counting every eligible vote in this election that every Pennsylvania's voices are heard, the election is not over because of the recounts and so we need to let the process play out.

And I am grateful for all 67 counties, all election officials, and all staff that have been putting in extra time to make sure that we have an accurate vote count in Pennsylvania. So that's what -- that's what really matters and it matters that every vote is counted in this election.

BOLDUAN: And to anyone, be them the former president or else -- or someone else who's trying to suggest all right already that something untoward is happening or will be happening with regard to the vote count in this election, what do you say?


CHAPMAN: You know, our elections are fair, they're accurate, and election professionals have been putting time to put in the work to make sure that every vote is accurately counted. You know, one thing that I would say is, it goes back to the need for reform -- legislative reform in Pennsylvania for pre-canvassing. It's something that we talked about on this -- on this show last week is that in Pennsylvania, we're not allowed -- county officials aren't allowed to start opening and processing those mail-in ballots until Election Day.

And that's why it takes so long for the process to play out here. But the legislature can make an easy fix. They can change this by allowing us to pre-process ballots at least two weeks before Election Day like states like Florida do so we can make sure that we are providing election results on election night, which then will you know improve voters' confidence in our election system. But there's nothing wrong going on, this is just the process, and we're very grateful to our election officials that have been working hard to make this an accurate count.

BOLDUAN: An accurate count and one that is likely headed to a recount, according to the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

CHAPMAN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it. Thank you. Coming up for us. The CDC issued a new warning about monkeypox. How it's transmitted and who's most at risk right now? We're going to discuss that next.



BOLDUAN: The CDC issuing a new warning now about monkeypox. All Americans, of course, can get the virus but they're saying right now that the LGBTQ plus community should be especially cautious at the moment ahead of the pride facilities coming -- pride festivities coming next month. The CDC is reporting many of the cases so far are among gay and bisexual men, though the disease can be passed to anyone. There's one confirmed case of monkeypox so far in the United States and six presumed cases.

Joining me now for more on this is Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez. She's a pediatrician at Columbia University's Irving Medical Center. It's good to see you, Doctor.


BOLDUAN: So the CDC has put out this warning that the way that they put it is "there's been a notable fraction of cases that are happening among gay and bisexual men." But of course, anyone can get this no matter their sexual orientation. What is this warning stemming from? BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Kate, I think that the CDC has a responsibility to notify the public and to notify physicians, in particular, when they see a trend, right? As you mentioned, anyone, anyone can get this and can spread it but I think it is important to know that right now, there seems to be some sort of higher exposure level in the LGBTQ community.

As you mentioned, pride festivities are coming up. So it is important for people in that community to be aware that this is happening. It's happening in other countries that could happen here, although the risk remains low right now in this country, so very much to put us all on alert but again, can happen to anyone and it's important not to stigmatize the illness, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's a -- it's a very good note. And you know, experts, they seem aware but not overly alarmed right now about monkeypox. This is not as contagious as COVID. So what should people know about the transmission and the symptoms?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Yes, they're definitely not COVID-19 what we're dealing with here. It is not a new virus, it is an old virus. What we're seeing here is that it used to spread in Africa, we're now seeing it in other parts of the world. Important to know it starts as you know, a normal viral illness usually these, fever, some chills, some body aches, some swollen lymph nodes, and then it can progress to a rash.

The rash turns into blisters and then the blister sort of scab over. It is important to know you are contagious when you have actually a day before you develop that rash. And until those blisters, the rash scabs over, so super important if you develop those symptoms to seek medical attention and to remain home if you can.

BOLDUAN: On COVID, I wanted to ask you. The FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee, it has the date set now to meet and consider the latest round of vaccines for kids. The dates are June 14 to discuss Moderna's EUA request for six to 17-year-olds, and then June 15, to discuss Moderna and Pfizer's EUA requests for kids as young as six months old. What do you think about how they've combined that consideration of the vaccines for the youngest kids? It's been a lot of discussion leading up to this.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: So much discussion, Kate. And I think the most important thing that I want people at home to know is that the delays, the discussions, and the back and forth have happened to make sure that this is effective. There has been no question about the safety of these vaccines in young kids. We just want to make sure that it is effective, that it works, that if we're going to actually vaccinate children, and I hope that we can soon to protect everyone, including my own son, we want to make sure that this is effective.

So, the companies have said they now have data showing that it is effective, 80 percent effective. We haven't seen that data. I'm excited. You know it's going to be a marathon couple of days. I'm excited for them to release the data for us to be able to see it and hopefully, to have approval soon, Kate. BOLDUAN: Approval soon. It seems this -- the approval soon has been coming for quite some time. It has been a marathon -- it'll be a marathon couple of days. It's also been a marathon trying to get to this point to get a vaccine for the youngest kids here. It's good to see you, Doctor. Thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate your time.

RACHO-SANCHEZ: You too. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you and be well. Thank you all so much for being here with us today. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this quick break.