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Moderna: Updated COVID Vaccine Shot Works Better Against Omicron; Gymnasts Seek $1 Billion From FBI Over Mishandling Nassar Case; United Airlines Donates Flights To Ship Baby Formula To U.S. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: New this morning. Moderna announcing its updated COVID booster shot offers a stronger immune response against the Omicron variant than the original vaccine. This updated vaccine is called a bivalent vaccine is it targets two strains of COVID, the original strain, and also targeting the Omicron variant. The CDC reports that Omicron and its sub-variants, they now account for 100 percent of COVID cases in the United States. Moderna says its bonafide booster shot could be available as soon as this summer.

Joining me right now is Moderna's chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton. It's good to see you again, Doctor. Thank you for being here. I read this with great interest. I know a ton of people did. You haven't released data on this new study yet but I did see you told the New York Times you feel this is a fundamental turning point in the fight against this virus. Why?

DR. PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: I do. Kate, good morning thanks for having me. Look, you know, seven months ago, the Omicron virus burst onto the world and I think we've all asked the question. If we get a vaccine that contains Omicron, will it be effective, will it neutralize that virus? And I think we now have definitive evidence that with this Moderna bivalent vaccine, we can. We can neutralize Omicron.

And we've lived for the last seven months with the constant evolution of the virus, it's highly infectious, it's certainly not mild, it's severe. I think we now have a vaccine that's adapted. You know, it's new. This is not the virus --the vaccine that we brought out two and a half years ago. We need a new one that's adapted to these new variants. I think we have it now. And I think it will really allow us to get a jump on this virus and start protecting people.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this -- are you confident this now puts you on track for something -- so for an annual COVID shot? Well, I know a lot of people have been talking about do we get to the place where the protection can last? Last year through the season, last year a year so it becomes an annual thing?

BURTON: Yes. I think it's a great question. Look what we saw here. [11:35:00]

BURTON: Antibody units, somewhere in five and a half thousand in people who had been exposed to COVID, who had been infected, even up to nearly 9000 units, and that's very high. Certainly higher than what we saw in our phase three studies when people were primed with Spikevax, you know, a couple of years ago. It's not completely confirmed, but we believe that a level of about 400 units is needed for people to get protection.

So, if you are at five and a half to 9000 units of antibody, which you could, will be now after receiving this as a booster, well, the level will decay over time. I really believe that starting from that high point of antibody concentration in your blood is going to let you coast for a lot longer and we really could be at that once yearly boosting setting. So it's an important result from that perspective, for sure.

BOLDUAN: The study didn't measure the efficacy of the modified booster, whether it actually reduces the risk of disease or severity. It measured was the level of neutralizing antibody response in people. I give that by way of only asking, are you concerned at all that this is not going to -- do you have any concerns about this holding up against actual exposure?

BURTON: No, look, I don't, Kate. You know, we've seen from so many studies here in the United States in the real-world setting, United Kingdom, HSA data, the Spikevax, even our original Spikevax vaccine, not only does it hold up extremely well against Delta, which we know is not around so much now but certainly even against Omicron, it has the protection of 85 to 95 percent against severe disease and death.

So, I think now with this new variant adapted vaccine, with those antibody levels that I mentioned in the thousands, I think we're really going to see excellent protection against symptomatic disease and certainly against severe disease as well.

BOLDUAN: In general, though, there is a lot of concern that just the virus is simply evolving faster than vaccines are keeping up. Just in general, the ability, I guess, to update vaccines and times to target it. And that's what we're -- you're kind of getting at here trying to be able to get ahead of it a little bit. What is the chance that by the time this new vaccine, assuming it becomes approved, what's the chance that we'll already be facing a new -- a new variant not named COVID requiring yet another update to the vaccine?

BURTON: Yes, so will we be at Pi or Zeta? Look, I don't think it's impossible. You know, this virus continues to show us it's able to make these massive evolutionary leaps. Omicron, for example, you know, shows us that. I think, though, Kate, having omicron as a fundamental part of our vaccine which clearly is in this one, is important because it's so far removed from the original ancestral virus that having antibodies against it not only protects against Omicron, but gives you good surround sound for these new Omicron sub-variants, and also variants that may come along. So I think it's -- I think it's very important, and I think people should be reassured of that. I would say, though, that I think what we've been able to show here as well, is that the Moderna platform can really respond very quickly. It's taken seven months to get here but you know we've been very cautious, very rigorous in our testing. I think now, given the hundreds of millions of people that have been dosed with our vaccine around the world, we know it's very safe, very effective, we could even speed that up, so I think having Omicron as a component of the backbone of a vaccine is important. But I think we can, and we've shown here that we can pivot quickly if needed.

BOLDUAN: What's a realistic shortening period from seven months to what?

BURTON: Well, it's a good question. Look, I think, you know, a large part of it is the manufacturing.


BURTON: We can't do the testing fairly quickly. We've still got to make hundreds of millions of doses, but I think we'll be able to get that down to you know low single-digit months over time.

BOLDUAN: All right. Doctor, thank you for coming in. I really appreciate your time.

BURTON: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. More than 90 women and girls sexually abused by Larry Nassar are now filing claims against the FBI over its handling of the case and their complaints and for failing to stop him. Details in a live report next.



BOLDUAN: Also developing at this hour. Dozens of sexual assault survivors, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, are seeking $1 billion in damages from the FBI for mishandling their investigation into Larry Nassar and for failing to stop him from abusing more young women. CNN's Jean Casarez is here and following this all along the way. Jean, what more are you learning about this move?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the Federal Tort Claims Act. It's an extraordinary move and they are giving notice to the FBI you have wronged us, you have hurt us, and the only thing we can do is come to you and ask for those monetary damages.


CASAREZ: And now the FBI will assess it and they will get back to them. But this is the timeline. Larry Nassar was the Team USA doctor and there finally were charges. But in 2017 is when it ultimately came about that the FBI dropped the ball that they actually knew what Larry Nassar was doing. They didn't say anything. He was allowed to re- offend numerous young women. And so, what happened after that was the FBI declined to prosecute

their own, the FBI of the Indianapolis field office. And so there was a huge Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last fall where the Olympic athletes and gold medalists actually testified of what was done to them and the FBI interviewed them but shelved those interviews.

Here's what Maggie Nichols says who was the first one who inadvertently at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas was telling another teammate of what Larry Nassar was doing to her. And it came out at that point that they had a problem. She said, and this is from the filing. "The FBI knew that Larry Nassar was a danger to children when his abuse of me was first reported in September of 2015 -- excuse me 15.

For 421 days, they worked with USA gymnastics and USOPC to hide this information from the public and allowed Nassar to continue molesting young women and girls. It is time for the FBI to be held accountable."

And the Office of the Inspector General did a full investigation or full report and they concluded that the FBI, the Indianapolis field office, did have the information. They did not document the interview with McKayla Maroney until 17 months after she had bared her soul and told so much of what had happened to her.

They also said in that inspector general report that the FBI officials, some were not with the FBI anymore, but they did interviews with the inspector general, and they misled them and made materially false statements. But what, last month, they declined again to prosecute any of them. And so now we have the culmination today.

BOLDUAN: And let's see where this goes from here. It's good to see you, Jean.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for laying it out. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us. United Airlines donating flights to bring hundreds of thousands of pounds of baby formula to the United States, the first U.S. airline to pitch in. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Millions of American families are facing a shortage of baby formula still. And United Airlines is stepping up donating flights now to transport more than 300,000 pounds of formula from the UK to the United States. The hope is, of course, to get it to store shelves very quickly, the United becoming the first airline to donate flights to this effort.

Joining me now is Josh Earnest. He's the Chief Communications Officer for United. Josh, the first flights are tomorrow, how many more do you think you're going to need to do before this crisis is alleviated? JOSH EARNEST, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, UNITED AIRLINES: Well, good morning, Kate, it's nice to see you. We expect over the next couple of weeks to do about 12 shipments of baby formula from the UK to here to the United States. You know, we have 22 flights a day between London and the United States, and we're donating a portion of that capacity on our planes to really try and step up and fill this need. And we're the first airline, as you mentioned, to volunteer this space and give it away for free.

We recognize that there are millions of families all across the country and as a father of two young children who no longer are babies, fortunately. But that -- remembering that feeling of vulnerability of trying to take care of a child, this is a tough situation. And we're pleased to be in a position where we can step up and lend our expertise in moving essential cargo and you know using the capacity that we have on our planes that operate between the UK and the United States to really fill this need.

BOLDUAN: Nothing more essential than this right now, for sure. Are you hearing specifics from the White House? Because they haven't been able to provide really any good timeline or an expectation of when things will get back to normal for families across the country, are you hearing any expectation of when your services will no longer be needed?

EARNEST: I don't have a sense of the broader picture in terms of when the supply of baby formula will be restored. But what I do know is that the Biden administration is basically pulling every lever that they can think of to try to get access to this supply of baby formula. And that's really where we came into this. They reached out to us and asked if we could help them move this formula that they'd identified in the UK to the United States to try to address this real supply crunch that so many families are facing. So this is an opportunity for us to really work with them to meet this need.

You know, one of the interesting notes about tomorrow's shipment, Kate, is that it's going to be delivered into a hangar in Dulles Airport. It's actually the same hangar that we used last summer to house Afghan evacuees that we'd flown on United Flights to that hangar.

So, you know we've actually partnered with the Biden administration in a variety of ways to try to meet these kinds of needs. It's a commitment that the airline has to be a force for good in the communities that we serve. And this is just another example of that.

BOLDUAN: Oh, I was going to -- I was going to notice this. I was going to mention this is not the first time that you have lent your services to doing -- to helping the government.


BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about something that's on top of mind for a lot of folks right now about international travel. The industry is lobbying the government to end COVID testing -- the COVID test requirement for passengers coming into the U.S., especially now that mask mandates are no longer. So far, there's been no change. Why haven't you all been able to convince the administration to do this yet?

EARNEST: Well, we certainly have made the case that this testing is no longer necessary.


EARNEST: And you know, of course, this testing actually only applies to passengers that are on airplanes and not people who are crossing land borders. So we certain -- we think there's a good case for this testing going away. We actually do think that if the testing did go away, it actually be another benefit for the economy.

It is a barrier to people who are looking to travel right now, either to Americans who want to travel overseas, or foreigners who want to come to the United States and spend tourism dollars. So we think that there's a benefit, not just for the airline industry, but for the broader U.S. economy for taking this testing away.

BOLDUAN: Of what's the resistance? Why do you think they're slow on this?

EARNEST: I -- to be honest with you, I don't -- I don't know why they believe that this is important. So you probably have the U.S. -- ask the U.S. government for that. I actually think there's a pretty strong case for taking that requirement away. We've made that case to the administration. They've heard us, but this is ultimately a decision that they'll have to make.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I promise you we're asking those questions of the government as well.

EARNEST: I'm glad.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Josh, thank you very much for coming in.

EARNEST: Nice to see you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. And thank you all so much for being with us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.