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J&J Asks FDA To Authorize COVID Vaccine Booster Shots; Dr. Francis Collins Announces He'll Step Down As NIH Director; Women Protest As Taliban Limits Girls' Education To 5th Grade; Laundrie's Sister: "I Don't Know Where He Is, I Don't Know If My Parents Are Involved". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: COVID infections continue to drop across the country. And Johnson & Johnson is now asking the FDA to authorize a booster for its one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

CNN's Jason Carroll has all the latest for us.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Johnson & Johnson asked the FDA to approve an additional dose of its coronavirus vaccine.

J&J researchers released data from studies which showed boosting its single-shot dose at two months or six months provided greater protection against moderate to critical COVID-19 symptoms.

In their request, J&J leaving it up to the FDA and the CDC to decide who should get the vaccine and when. The question now is, will the FDA give its OK?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: I think, really, the data suggests that, you know, one dose may not be sufficient. In fact, this could have easily been a two-dose vaccine.

CARROLL: This comes as new research confirms the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine gradually wanes over time.

Researchers analyzed data from more than three million people and found the effectiveness against infection fell to 47 percent after five months.

And a separate new study confirms who has been hit hardest by the coronavirus. African-Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos died in far greater numbers early on during the pandemic compared to white Americans.

The study found that death rates in those groups during that period were more than twice that of white or Asian-Americans.


CARROLL: In New York City, protesters against vaccine mandates let out their anger Monday. But the city's mayor says the mandates are working.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY): To every mayor in America, to every governor in America, to every CEO in America, go to a vaccine mandate and that's what's going to turn the corner for all of us.

CARROLL: Nationwide, infection rates are on the decline. But as children wait for vaccine approval, the cases among them are troubling.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 18 make up 22 percent of the population, but account for 27 percent of all cases in the U.S.

Take Florida, for example, where a CNN analysis found that at least 51,000 students and some 8,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the largest school districts in the state since the start of the school year.



CARROLL: And also, this development. The long-time director of the National Institutes of Health says he plans to step down by the end of the year.

Dr. Francis Collins has been at the agency for nearly three decades and has served as director for 12 years.

Collins saying in a statement, "I fundamentally believe no single person should serve in the position too long, And it's time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future."

He's really going to be missed.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes. Now they've got to feel that position and the FDA commissioner as well is still vacant there.

Jason Carroll, thank you.

CARROLL: You bet.

BLACKWELL: So under Taliban rule, women in Afghanistan are forced to change nearly every aspect of their lives. But some are pushing back. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kabul and shows us what Afghan women are doing, next.


[14:40:37] CAMEROTA: Women's daily lives in Afghanistan have changed drastically, everything from going to a beauty salon to trying to go to work is more dangerous now.

And for those who rise up against the harsh new measures, the Taliban is responding with force.

BLACKWELL: CNN spoke to women and girls, returning to work and school in defiance of the Taliban, about their life under the new rule and their hopes for the future.

CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, reports from Kabul.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A handful of women stand quietly but defiantly. They're here to protest the Taliban's de facto ban on girls going to school after fifth grade. A small act of great courage.


WARD: Taliban fighters start to pour in. Their heavily armed presence a menacing question mark.

A new arrival appears unsure of whether to get out of the car.

For a moment, it seems the Taliban may have come to protect the women, but the illusion is quickly shattered.


WARD (on camera): Someone from the Taliban has just come in, telling everyone to put away their cameras. It's getting a little tense over there.

(voice over): A senior Talib rips a phone out of one woman's hands. His men shove journalists back.


WARD: We try to keep filming, but the Taliban don't want the world to see.

(on camera): They're ripping the women's posters.


WARD: No, put it away. Put it away.


WARD (voice over): A machine gun burst sends a clear message, the protest is over. Malnavi Nasratala (ph) tells us he is the head of the Taliban's

intelligence services in Kabul, and that the women did not have permission to protest.

(on camera): Why does a small group of women asking for their right to be educated threaten you so much?


WARD (voice over): "I respect women's rights. I respect human rights," he says. "If I didn't respect women, you wouldn't be standing here."

(on camera): Would you have given them permission if they had asked for one?

(voice over): "Yes, of course," he says, "we would have."

But permissions are illusive and previous protests have met a similar fate.

On the streets of Hervon (ph), a neighborhood, the consequences of one recent demonstration can still be seen. At almost every beauty salon, images of women's faces have been defaced, as if to erase them from public life completely.


WARD: The women inside this salon are too scared to appear on camera.

(on camera): Hi. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). How are you?

(voice over): I asked them about posters outside.

(on camera): Who did it?


WARD: The Taliban did it?



WARD (voice over): "The Taliban came and drove away the protesters. Then they cursed us and said to remove the posters," they tell me. "They told us to put on a burka and sit in our homes."

But this city is full of brave women, like Arzo Khaliqyar, who refuse to do that.

This activist and mother of five says she was forced to become a taxi driver when her husband was murdered one year ago, leaving behind his car but little else.

(on camera): Tell me a little bit about how life has changed for you since the Taliban took power.

ARZO KHALIQYAR, TAXI DRIVER (through translation): A lot of changes. Too many.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

WARD: It's OK. Take your time. It's OK.

KHALIQYAR (through translation): Since the Taliban regime has come to power, it has become very difficult.

WARD (voice over): She offers to take us for a ride. It's another small act of courageous resistance.


WARD: While the Taliban have not officially banned women from driving, she says she has received threats and that the militants hit her car two weeks ago as a warning.

(on camera): I see the men. They stare at you.

KHALIQYAR: Yes. Yes. Yes.

WARD: They look at you.

(voice over): It's not long before she picks up a fare. Usually, she prepares to take women and stay in areas she's familiar with.


(on camera): Are you aware of the risks that you're taking when you go out every day and do your work?

KHALIQYAR (through translation): Yes, yes. In some places where I see Taliban checkpoints, I'm forced to go through a street or change my route. But I accepted this risk for the sake of my children.

WARD (voice over): On the other side of town, English teacher, Atifa Watanyar, is also working hard to give her students a better future.

ATIFA WATANYAR, TEACHER (through translation): Please open your books --

WARD: The past year has not been easy. In May, a horrific bombing targeted the Syed el-Shihada (ph) school where she teaches, taking more than 80 innocent lives.

(on camera): So you were here when the explosions happened?

WATANYAR: Yes, I was in front of the door.

WARD: You were in front of the door. Did you see it with your own eyes?

WATANYAR: Yes, yes. I saw a very huge explosion in front of the other door.

WARD (voice over): Incredibly, the school reopened. But weeks later, the Taliban swept to power and announced that, for the time being, from 6th through 12th grade, only boys should come to school.

(on camera): It's just very striking that a bomb was not able to stop these girls from coming to school.


WARD: But now the Taliban has been able to stop them from coming to school.

WATANYAR: Yes, it's true. Every day I see Taliban in the streets. I become -- I be -- I be afraid.

WARD: But you're still coming here every day. You're still teaching.

WATANYAR: Yes. What should we do? What should we do? It's just the thing that we can do for our children, for our daughters, for our girls.

WARD (voice over): In the fifth-grade classroom, the girls are excited to test their English skills.

(on camera): Hi!


WARD: I want you to raise your hand if you love school.

Wow. Everybody loves school.

(voice over): This may well be the last year they get to come and study, yet they are still full of hope for the future.

(on camera): Raise your hand and tell me what you want to be when you grow up.

What do you want to be?


WARD: Doctor. OK.

Who else wants to be a doctor?

Oh, wow, we have a lot of doctors.

(voice over): Sixteen-year-old Sanam (ph) used to have dreams, too. She wanted to be a dentist.

The explosion at her school left her with serious injuries. But she was brave enough to go back for the sake, she says, of her close friend who could not. SANAM (ph) (through translation): I felt that I must go back and study

for the peace of her soul. I must study and build my country so that I can make her wishes and dreams come true.

WARD (on camera): So right now, you cannot go to school. How does that make you feel?

SANAM (ph) (through translation): I feel all my dreams are crushed and buried. For I won't be allowed to go to school and study. All my motivation is completely gone.

WARD: It's OK. Take a minute. It's OK.

If you want to stop, we can stop. It's OK.

SANAM (ph) (through translation): No. The Taliban are the people who -- they are the cause of the situation I am in right now. My spirit is gone. My dreams are buried.

WARD (voice over): And, yet, recently, she has started to read her books again and study a little bit every day. Just one more small act of great courage.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kabul.


CAMEROTA: Just incredible to have Clarissa Ward on the ground for us there, or these stories we wouldn't be seeing otherwise.

Thank you, Clarissa.


OK, meanwhile, the search continues for Brian Laundrie. And now his sister is speaking out. So we are live with an update, next.


BLACKWELL: We are hearing from the sister of Brian Laundrie. In this interview with "Good Morning, America," Cassie Laundrie says she never saw any signs of domestic violence between her brother and Gabby Petito.

CAMEROTA: Authorities have been trying to locate Brian for three weeks now following Petito's death.

Cassie Laundrie insists she has no idea where her brother is but wishes he would turn himself in.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, SISTER OF BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I do not know where Brian is. I would turn him in.

I wish he had come to me first that day with the van because I don't think we'd be here.

I worry about him. I hope he's OK. And then I'm angry, and I don't know what to think.

I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Leyla Santiago is following the developments from Florida.

So, Leyla, what else did the sister say?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn and Victor, in this interview, she talks about how she, too, has a lot of questions for Brian. That is why she wants and is hoping that he's alive so she can get more answers to that.

She talks about the wide range of emotions from being worried to also wanting Brian to get her family out of this. Listen.


LAUNDRIE: I've been cooperating with the police since day one. I have been in touch with law enforcement.

I don't know if my parents are involved.


SANTIAGO: And here's something else that happened. See last night, Cassie came out of her home to address protesters. And in it, she gave new information about the timeline.


She says, on August 17th, Brian came back home to Florida. That was then confirmed by the family attorney.

I want you to see what he said to us in a statement.

He says, "Brian flew home to Tampa from Salt Lake City on August 17th and returned to Salt Lake City on August 23rd to rejoin Gabby. To my knowledge, Brian and Gabby paid for the flight, as they were sharing expenses. Brian flew home to obtain some items and empty and close a storage unit to save money as they contemplated extending the road trip."

So that's one other new line to add to this very long timeline.

Let me give you perspective on that. That is five days after the couple encountered police because someone called 911 to report a fight between the couple.

Now that same attorney, the Laundrie attorney, insists the parents do not know where he is.


BRIAN LAUNDRIE, FORMER FIANCE OF GABBY PETITO: How are we supposed to separate? I don't want to -- (INAUDIBLE).


BLACKWELL: Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.

Facebook's whistleblower says the company should declare moral bankruptcy. And she says she has national security concerns about how the company operates.

CAMEROTA: We will hear more of her claims. And a Facebook executive is going to join us with the company's response, next.