Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Johnson & Johnson Asks For Booster Shot Approval; Infrastructure Negotiations; Facebook Under Fire. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Ana Cabrera picks up right now.

Have a good day.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Facebook under fire. Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen providing explosive Senate testimony today, laying out Facebook's calculated decisions to prioritize profits, she says, over the mental health of children using their apps, comparing big tech to big tobacco.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: When we realize big tobacco was hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action.

And when our government learned that opioids were taking lives, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here.


CABRERA: Her testimony comes as the company's stocks slide. Yesterday, a nearly 5 percent drop lost CEO Mark Zuckerberg $6 billion, with a B, in the span of just a few hours.

Now, that hit coincided with Monday's worldwide outage for Facebook and two major Facebook-owned services, Instagram and WhatsApp. The first domino that really set off this stretch of bad news was Frances Haugen. Last month, she leaked thousands of internal records to "The Wall Street Journal."

And those documents indicate Facebook has shrugged off hard evidence showing the damage its Instagram platform was doing, including its potentially toxic effect on teens, especially girls.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been all over this story.

And, Donie, you have been listening closely to this testimony at this hearing. We heard a pretty disturbing account of a social media giant that apparently is willing to grow at all costs. DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Yes,

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistle-blower is proving to be an incredibly powerful witness. She's a tech insider, but she's able to speak and explain these rather complicated algorithms and how these systems work in a way that normal people can understand.

Have a listen.


HAUGEN: Facebook understands that, if they want to continue to grow, they have to find new users, they have to make sure that the next generation is just as engaged in Instagram as the current one.

And the way they will do that is by making sure that children establish habits before they have good self-regulation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By hooking kids.

HAUGEN: By hooking kids.

I would like to emphasize one of the documents that we send in on problematic use examined the rates of problematic use by age, and that peaked with 14-year-olds. It's what -- it's just like cigarettes. Teenagers don't have good self-regulation. They say explicitly: I feel bad when I use Instagram, and yet I can't stop.


O'SULLIVAN: Senators on both sides of the aisle here seemed to be rather impressed by Haugen, even suggesting that they could work towards some bipartisan legislation to crack down on Facebook -- Ana.

CABRERA: Facebook has whether numerous scandals over the past several years. Is this one different?

O'SULLIVAN: I think it really, really is.

In the past, it's been Cambridge Analytica. It's been about data. It's been about Russian trolls, all that sort of thing. This is about the most vulnerable people in our society, children. It's about young people. And, unfortunately, it's an incredibly relatable story, the one that she is telling, of how these algorithms are promoting accounts to young girls about eating disorders and anorexia, things like that, and how misinformation is being and hate is being amplified throughout their platform.

So I think the fact that this is about children, frankly, it's a conversation that we all should have been having a very, very long time ago. I think that is what is different. And I think that is where we're seeing this bipartisanship.

CABRERA: Donie O'Sullivan, you have done a great job reporting on this issue. Thank you for being our eyes and ears inside this hearing. We will check back with you. Let's bring in child psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Dunckley now. She

studies the impact of screens on children. She's the author of "Reset Your Child's Brain."

Doctor, great to have you with us. Thanks for being here.

As a parent myself, I have been listening very closely to this testimony, and it is so disturbing. Really hits close to home for me personally, as I have a child almost 10 years old.

For years, you have been raising the alarm about the harmful effects social media could be having on kids. Was there anything you have heard from this whistle-blower that's made you think, oh, this is worse than I thought?

DR. VICTORIA DUNCKLEY, CHILD PSYCHIATRIST: I don't think I think it's worse than I thought, but it's definitely, in a way -- the silver lining of all of this is that it's coming to everyone's attention.

Those of us who are in the trenches have known these things are going on with these big tech companies for years. They're beholden to shareholders. They're not beholden to the general public. That's not in their best interests.


So, I think one of the things about the study that was interesting to me is that they're asking the kids themselves if -- how -- if they feel better or worse after using these platforms.

But when someone's addicted to something, they don't have the insight, they're using it in some way to -- because they're addicted to it. So my thought about this study is that these impacts are actually worse than the study is revealing, because you're asking people who are impacted by addictive processes.

CABRERA: And they may not be as honest even with themselves about the negative effects or harmfulness...

DUNCKLEY: Exactly.


CABRERA: ... of some of the platforms they're using.


And the whole self-regulation piece, once the addictive processes get activated, self-regulation gets worse over time. And what happens is impulse control, self-discipline, judgment, all of those things get worse the more that somebody uses screens in terms of social media, video games, whatever, whatever the activity is.


DUNCKLEY: So they tend to have worse judgment over time. CABRERA: We also heard that these apps may be changing high school

itself. Let's watch.


HAUGEN: In the case of bullying, Facebook knows that Instagram dramatically changes the experience of high school.

When I was in high school -- most kids have positive home lives. Like, it doesn't matter how bad it is at school, kids can go home and reset for 16 hours. Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It follows them into their bedrooms.

The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them, or the first thing they see in the morning is someone being cruel to them. Kids are learning that their own friends, like, people who they care about them, are cruel to them. Like, think about how that's going to impact their domestic relationships.


CABRERA: So, basically, it's easier to bully, harder to avoid the bullying. And kids are internalizing all of that vitriol.

Are these social media sites just inherently dangerous. Should kids be on them at all?

DUNCKLEY: That's a conversation that really needs to be had is if it's even appropriate for kids or teens to even be using these sites altogether.

So one of the things that I promote is that parents just avoid social media altogether until the child is an adult and can decide for themselves. So there's kind of a growing movement of people who are delaying the use of smartphones, delaying use of social media, all of those things, because all of these -- all this research is coming out showing that it impacts their brain.

There's actually brain changes that happen over time that we don't know if those are permanent or not. But we know from brain imaging studies that, the more screen time someone uses, the more it affects their white matter, the gray matter, the connectivity in the brain.

So these things are really concerning. And I think I would like to see it go the way of tobacco, that we are looking at these things as something that is addictive and that changes the brain, and, therefore, it's not appropriate for children at all.

CABRERA: So there's that addiction component that you, I know, focus a lot of your research on, but I want to read a couple of other quotes from Facebook's internal research that was leaked by this whistle- blower, said 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.

Teens blamed Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. And one presentation showed, among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.

So this is just so disturbing, so worrisome. Why do you think Facebook platform Instagram is having this kind of impact on teens?

DUNCKLEY: I think, as other experts have mentioned, one thing that's specific to Instagram is, it's very focused on image. It's just -- it's showing your best life.

It's showing -- it's using filters. It's not real. And then, if you look at that, especially as a teen, you're constantly comparing. So I think Instagram in particular is harmful in that way. But, really, all of these social media platforms can have impacts like that, not just in terms of content, but in terms of the physiological impacts and the addictive component.

CABRERA: Facebook is aware of all this. They haven't really addressed it.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that even they try to downplay this aspect in public. What do you think needs to happen, one, for accountability, and, two, to create a less harmful experience?


DUNCKLEY: Well, I'm not sure if there can be a less harmful experience.

I think what the research shows is that the kids who may actually -- who can tolerate social media, who might benefit from it, are kids who are already very healthy, so their brain is already more resilient. They have a good home life. They have high self-esteem and maybe they benefit a little bit from joining a particular group.

That's a small minority compared to the kids who are actually using it who are desperate or lonely or have something going on, especially compounded by the pandemic. So, I just think we need -- we just really need to, as parents and health clinicians and educators, we really just -- I feel like there needs to be just a push away from social media altogether.

And, sometimes, it just takes trying it for a few weeks, and parents can let it go, and they can see the relief in their child. And they can see that they're sleeping better, they're happier. And, sometimes, kids need an excuse. And having the parent remove it is their excuse for getting off of it.

CABRERA: Well, really appreciate that guidance and advice.

Dr. Victoria Dunckley, thank you so much for joining us and providing your insights.

DUNCKLEY: Thank you, Ana. Thank you for having me.

CABRERA: While that hearing resumes in Washington, minutes from now, President Biden will be landing in Michigan. He's going there to rally the public around two sweeping bills that have been held up for weeks as Democrats bicker over the final price tag of the larger bill, the Build Back Better package.

But the dam may be breaking. We have learned that the president has now floated a range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion for that social safety net package. This morning, one of two Democratic holdouts on that bill, Senator Joe Manchin, said he isn't ruling out that compromise.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.

Kaitlan, Senator Manchin seems open to it. Progressives, though, haven't really weighed in here. They initially wanted $3.5 trillion. So is this significant progress?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's notable that Senator Manchin did not rule out that price tag. Of course, that's higher than the number that he offered last week when speaking with reporters, which was $1.5 trillion.

But CNN is told that, yesterday, on that call, one of the progressives that President Biden was meeting virtually with, Congresswoman Jayapal, said that that number needed to be higher than that range that President Biden had said is what he believed Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema would accept, so still no consensus on what that price tag is going to look like.

And I think this is what complicates the president's trip today, which is intent on selling this plan and his larger domestic agenda to the public. And he can certainly do that with the infrastructure plan that is waiting to get a vote in the House. That is, of course, what has been at the center of all of this, as those progressives have said, they will not vote yes on that until they see what this other larger social policy package is going to look like.

And they still don't know the price tag for that. So it does make it a little bit harder for the president to sell it, because, of course, it is expected to go down from that initial $3.5 trillion that he had rolled out. And so, since it is going to be downsized, something that essentially all sides are now conceding is going to be a reality, that also raises questions about what it's going to look like and how much money goes to certain priorities in this compromise that they are aiming for right now.

So, Ana, I still think a lot of questions about what this is actually going to end up with. But we should note that Democrats want to move quickly on this. They are hoping to get an agreement in the coming days, not wait until that deadline, of course, that they have now set for the end of this month.

CABRERA: There's also the debt ceiling. And if the Senate doesn't act, in just 13 days, the U.S. will default on its debt for the first time in U.S. history.

President Biden, we heard, tried to shame Republicans into action yesterday. He said he'd be speaking to senator Mitch McConnell. Any movement there?

COLLINS: There is still complete disagreement between these two parties over how to solve this issue.

And you're right. We're talking about infrastructure and what the president's domestic agenda is going to look like when it comes to that social policy. This is much more immediate, because this is something that you have seen several lawmakers say, if they don't start trying to address this starting today, that there are going to be serious issues in less than two weeks from now, when they have no consensus on how to proceed with this.

And you're seeing Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell, dig in on their position here, saying that they are not going to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling. And so they're saying they need to use that complicated process known as reconciliation. Democrats are saying, no, that they do not want to use that.

But they aren't exactly ruling it out. So whether or not they come to an agreement on that remains to be seen. But, of course, it has major implications, how they decide to move forward here, as they get closer and closer to that deadline.

CABRERA: All right, thank you so much, Kaitlan Collins from the White House.

Also new today, Johnson & Johnson asking the FDA to green-light a booster for its COVID-19 vaccine. What this could mean for the millions of Americans who got J&J's single shot.

Plus: An angry mob called for his hanging on January 6. Now former Vice President Mike Pence is brushing it off and blaming someone else entirely.

And the sister of Brian Laundrie speaking out in a new interview. What she's saying about her brother's potential whereabouts.



CABRERA: New developments in the fight against COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson is asking the FDA to authorize booster shots of its coronavirus vaccine, but the company is leaving it up to regulators to decide who should get the booster shots and when.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, all these months later, what can you tell us about just how well the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Johnson & Johnson says that their vaccine is effective. Remember, this is the one-shot vaccine. They say it's effective with one shot, but even more effective, and if you look at their numbers, much more effective as a two-shot vaccine.

[13:20:00] So, let's take a look at the numbers that Johnson & Johnson has put out. What they say is that, as a single shot, it's 53 percent effective against some moderate to severe COVID-19. But a second shot eight weeks later, they say it makes it 75 percent effective against moderate to severe COVID-19.

So, 75 percent is still not as effective as Moderna or Pfizer. And I should note these numbers are from global clinical trials. They say that, actually, the boosters seem to work much, much better for folks in the United States. It's not entirely clear why that would be. And I think that's one of the questions that folks at the FDA are going to have.

Let's take a look at how often people in the U.S. are getting Johnson & Johnson. It was supposed to be sort of the big vaccine. It was only one shot, instead of two, that people thought that people would like that and that the lines would be around the block. It didn't quite work out that way.

If you take a look, of all the people who've been vaccinated in the United States, 55 percent, or about 102 million, have gotten Pfizer, 37 percent Moderna and just 8 percent Johnson & Johnson -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

And joining us now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.

Hi there, Dr. Reiner.

This is interesting. J&J says it's vaccine is stable, but that an extra dose does make it much, much better as far as the level of protection. Do you think this will be approved?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's an interesting question, Ana.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of J&J's data is that their overall efficacy against infection at about 80 percent is stable over six months. Now, that can be boosted to over 90 percent on -- almost 94 percent by either a boost at two months after the first shot or six months after the first shot.

But I think the major question for the FDA committee is not going to be whether the boost works, but whether you actually need the boost with J&J vaccine. So that will be an interesting discussion week after next.

CABRERA: And this is different than Pfizer's, in that the request doesn't target a specific timeline or a group that J&J is requesting to receive this booster. What do you make of that?

REINER: I'm not sure J&J knows what to do with their data.

They have a fairly stable vaccine that can be made a little bit more potent, so to speak, by adding a booster. I think the major discussion, again, is going to be, in which patients does this boost really matter? Is it more important in the elderly? We will have to see.

It's an interesting discussion, in contrast to the Pfizer data, which really does seem to suggest that the Pfizer vaccine decreases in efficacy over time. It doesn't appear to be sort of the same decrease with the J&J vaccine.

CABRERA: And I wanted to ask you about that, because there's this new real-life study that really confirms the standard two doses of Pfizer's vaccine.


CABRERA: It holds strong over time for protection against hospitalization and death at 90 percent. But its protection against the mild infection, so any kind of symptom, it wanes significantly over time, down to 47 percent efficacy in that regard five months after vaccination.

Does that just bolster the argument that everyone should get booster shots?

REINER: I think so.

Look, the Pfizer vaccine and really all the vaccines are really effective against preventing hospitalization or death. But the data does show that, six months out with a Pfizer vaccine, the efficacy against infection is barely 50 percent.

And these breakthrough infections, while perhaps not requiring hospitalization or -- and certainly very unlikely to be fatal, can be very troublesome, can keep you out of work for a long time. And if your kids get infected, your adolescents who have been vaccinated get infected, you're likely to have to stay home.

So -- and there is an important personal and economic imperative not to get infected. So, I do think we will see over time boosters really made available to everybody.

CABRERA: The main focus is still trying to get people their first shot, right?

And Golden State Warrior Andrew Wiggins just got his. But he was a longtime holdout, and he wasn't happy about getting the vaccine. Take a listen.


ANDREW WIGGINS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that's going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time, not something I wanted to do. But it was kind of forced.

So, I took the gamble. I took the risk. And, hopefully, like I said, I'm good. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: What's your reaction to him saying he was forced to do this? And he's calling it a risk.


REINER: Yes, he's got it 180 degrees wrong.

He's not taking the risk by getting vaccinated. You're taking a gigantic gamble not just with your health, but with the health of your family, if you don't get vaccinated. So he really needs to rethink this. He's got it wrong. I'm glad he got vaccinated.

But this shows you that, essentially, vaccine mandates, what they do for compliance in the United States with vaccination. They increase the number of people who get vaccinated. I don't really care whether he's happy about it or not. I'm glad that he got vaccinated. He did the right thing, even if he took a circuitous route to doing it.

I hope more people follow his lead.

CABRERA: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, good to see you. Thank you so much for being here. And thanks for all you do.

REINER: My pleasure. Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Former Vice President Mike Pence is apparently trying to win back the same group that called for his hanging on January 6. What he's saying now about the violent mob of Trump supporters that attacked the Capitol.