Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

FDA Advisers Meeting on Pfizer Vaccine for Ages 5-11; Report Shows Rust Crew Members Used Guns with Live Ammo Before Shooting; Democrats Hashing Out Sticking Points on Spending Bill as deadline Nears. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 10:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill.


Right now, this morning, we are watching a key ongoing meeting of FDA advisers that could have a big impact on millions of American families. They are debating whether to recommend authorizing Pfizer's COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

It is, we should note, just one of several crucial steps before final approval for kids getting that first shot, or emergency approval, we should say.

The debate comes though at a critical time. There have been more than 6 million pediatric COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. Just last week, 118,000 cases, a quarter of all new infections, were among children under the age of 18.

The director of the National Institutes of Health says getting this age group vaccinated will help put the pandemic behind us.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATOINAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We can create a situation where more of these kids are not getting infected. We should be able to drive this pandemic down, which is what we really hope to do, even as we face the cold weather and other concerns about whether we might see another surge. We don't want that. And this would be one significant step forward in getting our country really in a better place.


SCIUTTO: Let's bring in Senior Medical -- one of us or both of us -- Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, so, tell us about the timeline, because I know a lot of parents are watching and listening. When is it most likely, if it does come, for emergency use authorization to come through?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that if the FDA and the CDC give a green light to Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, he expects -- he said he is optimistic -- that was the word he used -- he is optimistic that shots could go into children's arms as early as next week. He said more specifically the first two weeks of November, so that could be as early as next week.

Let's take a look at this timeline because I want to emphasize how many layers are involved in approving this vaccine. We've heard a lot of sort of misinformation, that it's not seriously reviewed. That is just not true. Let's look at all of these layers.

Today, FDA advisers, these external advisers, most of them professors, doctors at universities, they'll meet to decide whether or not they think there should be an emergency use authorization for children ages 5 to 11 for Pfizer. And then by Monday, the FDA will have their final decision on the emergency use authorization. And then November 2nd and 3rd, next week, CDC advisers, again, external advisers, not a part of the CDC, these are external experts, they'll meet to discuss the specifics of it and whether they're going to green light it.

And then after November 3rd, and we do think it will be quite soon after November 3rd, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, would give her thoughts on whether this should be approved the way that the FDA had laid it out. So, that's the timeline.

Let's take a look at what the advisers will be looking at specifically. It's a large clinical trial where some children were given the vaccine and other children were given the placebo. They followed them for a period of time to see who got sick with COVID-19. This is how they did it with adults last year. Let's take a look at what they found.

According to Pfizer's documents, they say that the vaccine is 90.7 percent effective against preventing symptomatic COVID-19, in other words, 91 percent almost effective at keeping kids from getting sick with COVID-19. What they did is that a little over 1,300 children received the vaccine in the clinical trial. Only three became sick with COVID-19. 663 children received a placebo, a shot of saline that does nothing. That's a much smaller number. But look how many more children became sick with COVID. 16 became sick with COVID.

So, over the next day, we're going to be hearing lots of epidemiological nitty-gritty about these numbers. But, really, it boils down to one thing. This is how Dr. Paul Offit, a member of this advisory panel, put it.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We can promise you that when we have this discussion, that if we do end up recommending this vaccine, we would only do it if we would give it to our own children. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: And, again, if the FDA and the CDC green light this vaccine for children, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he's optimistic that shots could go into arms next week or the week after.


Erica, Jim?

HILL: Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

Also joining us this morning with some of her insight, Dr. Grace Lee, Associate Chief Medical Officer for Practice Innovation at Stanford Children's Health and Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Great to have you with us this morning. There's so much anticipation about what is happening in this moment as that independent advisory board is debating. And they will make their recommendation, whatever it may be, ideally later today.

When you looked at some of this data, when you look at the information that we have publicly, that we know, is there anything that gives you pause in recommending this vaccine if, in fact, it is authorized, to your patients?

DR. GRACE LEE, PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, a couple things. So, first, yes, the publicly available data, I think, are excellent for review. And that was a nice summary of what the data show. I will emphasize that it's really important to have this review process, including independent advisory meetings that are open to the public. And I think transparency has been key to public trust.

The scientific advisers are debating both the benefits and the risks of vaccination as well as the risks of COVID-19 infection in our children. And so as a parent, and as pediatrician, I mean, the questions that I always ask are, is it safe, is it effective, and will it be impactful in the lives of children.

SCIUTTO: And your answer to those questions are?

LEE: The -- well, I would say that the independent advisory committee today is reviewing the clinical trials data as well as all the epidemiologic data. Clearly, the trials demonstrate an efficacy of 90.7 percent in terms of preventing infection in children 5 to 11 years of age. And the safety data appear in the clinical trials to have no serious adverse events and very consistent with the hundreds of millions of doses that have been administered in adults in the U.S. as well as outside the U.S.

But, of course, it's going to be extremely important to monitor safety, and safety is paramount for all of us, not just children, but also adults. But I think that, you know, we want to make sure that we are looking at this data closely and deliberating before we make a decision. HILL: In terms of that safety, this is something Jim and I were discussing earlier, not just the fact that these vaccinations, you know, let's think positively here, when they're available, are going to be available in doctors' offices, right, a much more comfortable setting for a lot of families. But there are also some really stringent safety measures in place to make sure that a child is getting a child dose, which is about a third of what adults are getting.

LEE: Yes. The formulation that was submitted is a different formulation, it's a pediatric formulation with a different dose. And you're right, I think, you know, when we think about pediatric vaccinations, the vast majority of vaccines are delivered in pediatricians' or family practitioners' offices. And I think it's actually what makes a lot of sense for children is to get them back into their medical home, make sure that parents and children are having these conversations with their doctor about what makes sense for them, and making sure that they are fully aware of all the benefits and risks of vaccination.

SCIUTTO: And just big picture, because I think that this point bears repeating because it seems to have not gotten through with big portions of population, can you remind folks why vaccines in an age group like this is about protecting the children but also protecting those around them?

LEE: Well, I'd say it goes in both directions. What we can see is that in communities and geographic regions with a high proportion of vaccinated adults, we're seeing lower rates of infection in children. And conversely, communities with a lower proportion of vaccinated adults have higher rates of infection that we're seeing in children.

In addition, what I would say is that, for me, what's really important to make sure as a parent and a pediatrician is to think about the individual benefit of these vaccines to children and make sure that it makes sense for them.

HILL: Dr. Grace Lee, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

LEE: Thank you.

HILL: Well, the Biden administration is rolling out new vaccine requirements for foreign travelers hoping to come to the U.S. The new rules also lift several travel bans that have been implemented under former President Trump during the pandemic.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez join us now. So, Priscilla, tell us who and when among foreign travelers now can come in with, I suppose, reduced requirements.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Right. So, starting November 8th, foreign travelers coming to the U.S. will have to be fully vaccinated. And now, we're learning what that process is going to look like. So, it will start with COVID testing. So, fully vaccinated travelers still have to show a COVID-19 negative test, but they'll take that three days prior to departure.

Now, for those who are unvaccinated, like U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, they have to show a COVID-19 negative test a day prior to departure.


Now, as to what vaccines will be allowed, officials say that WHO and FDA-authorized vaccines will be permitted. That also includes Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, and AstraZeneca. And, of course, there are exemptions, and children under 18 are a big one. They don't have to be fully vaccinated. They do, however, have to be tested. There is also exemptions for countries that have less than a 10 percent full vaccination rate just because of vaccine availability, as well as a couple other exemption.

So, officials recognizing here that they do need to make some exemptions, but, otherwise, the resounding message is you have to be fully vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's interesting, Erica, that all vaccines, in effect, are -- except not just the ones that have become standard here in the U.S.

HILL: Yes, which was a question early on, how would that work between different countries.

I also just want to get some information. There's new information, a separate story, a number of U.S. airlines, Priscilla, have helped Afghans fleeing the country since the Taliban took control. And we're learning a little bit more about those efforts. What have you learned?

ALVAREZ: It's a significant development for Afghan evacuees on U.S. domestic bases. Airlines are coming together, including United, Delta, American Airlines to donate 20,000 flights to Afghan evacuees on these bases. This is in addition to 20,000 that were already offered or contributed by the American public. So, that brings up to 40,000 flights for Afghan evacuees.

We know there are 53,000 still on U.S. military bases. So, just another development here as the U.S. tries to get these evacuees off of domestic military bases and into the community where they will ultimately resettle.

SCIUTTO: Great to see so many folks working together on this. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much.

And still to come this hour, new details this morning about ammunition, loose ammunition found on the Rust film set. We piece together more of the events leading up to last week's fatal shooting.

HILL: And two major challenges for Democrats on the Hill. Can they get Senator Manchin on board with the content of the bill? And can they agree on how to pay for it? A heavy lift and quite a time to do it, two days. Plus, Blue Origin proposing a space destination to NASA. We've got a first look at Jeff Bezos' vision to replace the International Space Station.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, this is just incredible, The Wrap is reporting that the gun that killed Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Alec Baldwin's movie Rust had been used by crew members earlier that morning for live ammo target practice, for fun.

Here's The Wrap CEO Sharon Waxman, who broke that story.


SHARON WAXMAN, CEO, THE WRAP: There's this pastime that crew members sometimes do, it's called plinking, and they go out into the rural areas and they shoot at beer cans. This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed.


HILL: Meantime, court records obtained by The New York Times show ammunition was found in multiple places on the film set. It was found loose in boxes and also in a fanny pack. What was not made clear what type, we should point out, what type of ammunition that was, whether those were blanks or live rounds.

Joining us now is a Prop Master Marcus Cooley. He's worked in a number of films, including Fast and Furious and Bad Boys. It's good to have you back with us this morning. There's a lot of information out. We're all trying to sort of make sense of it and piece things together understandably.

As you're looking at some of the things we're learning, I was really struck by this report in the L.A. Times where a veteran armorer actually turned down a job, was concerned about this saying it was a, quote, accident waiting to happen because the production crew he said wanted to hire sort of fewer people than they would normally have in these positions as armorer and prop master. So, can give us a sense what would that normally look like in terms of how many people would be there and how significant would bit if there were fewer people in those roles?

MARCUS COOLEY, PROP MASTER AND PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Yes. Obviously, the safety aspect of it is the more people, the safer that we can be depending on the amount of weapons that we have on set when I'm armorer. If I'm prop master on a project, it's myself, an assistant prop master and a third, and then when we're armoring, I have somebody step into my role as the prop master for the day and I take over as armoring, and I have no less than one person assisting me as a weapons handler by my side at all times. That person is there just to ensure that all the weapons are secured at all times, and sure that we have a second eye on what's happening and ensuring that everything is being handled accordingly to the safety guidelines.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Marcus. Is there any reason under any circumstances to have live ammunition on a set? Why? I mean, they do so much of the flashbang in post-production anyway. I mean, it raises the question whether you even need blank rounds. But why would you need live rounds?

COOLEY: Yes. There's set all over the world that -- hundreds of thousands of rounds are fired every year on these sets. As far as the live ammunition, there's no reason it should ever, ever have come onto the set. I heard reports that crew members from time to time do what has referred to as plinking. That is not an industry practice in any state, at least in North America that I'm aware of.


It's not something I would participate in. It's not something that's allowed. And any crew member that's on a project that that is partaking is putting themselves by allowing that to happen and others at risk.

HILL: Adding up everything that we know at this point, what do you think the impact is on the industry as a whole? I mean, do you anticipate -- it sounds like from everyone we've spoken to, including yourself, there are very specific rules and protocols in place that have for the most part worked very well. So, do you anticipate based on what we've learned about this particular set any further changes, or do you think this was more a product of this one particular set?

COOLEY: Yes. Over 20 years in between accidents, it's been. And I perceive those making changes for their own precautions and to make the crews feel safer, obviously after an incident like this, it puts a spotlight in one particular department, specifically in this case armoring.

There's dangerous things that happen on set every day. We use helicopters. We drop men from 30, 40, 50 feet. We have car crashes and explosions. There's always a highlight on a set when something like this tragically happens. I think it's going to bring a lot of attention to the safety that moves forward. I think a lot more people on set are going to be focusing a lot more attention on what's actually happening.

Obviously, in this case, there were members that walked off because there were prior issues with safety, and I see us having more of that. You know, I think the bottom line is there's going to be a lot more vetting of experienced armorers and experienced technicians when it comes to things that involve dangerous actions on set.


HILL: Marcus Cooley, I really appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. Thank you.

COOLEY: Absolutely. Thank you. SCIUTTO: Still ahead, right when it seemed like Democrats were making progress, a new major disagreement on how to pay for Biden's spending bill. We're going to speak to a congressman involved in all this, Lloyd Doggett. That's coming up.



HILL: This morning, President Biden and Democratic leaders are pushing ahead, working toward a framework agreement on that social safety net package hoping to clear the way for a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the next couple of days.

SCIUTTO: I feel like we've uttered those words many times in recent weeks. There are still several major unresolved issues on the spending package. Right now, our Manu Raju is speaking to Bernie Sanders, of course, a key figure in these negotiations. Let's listen in.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): -- the pharmaceutical industry made $50 billion in profit and right now has 1,500 paid lobbyists here in Washington to make sure we don't lower the cost of the prescription drugs. So, to my mind, any in a serious reconciliation bill must include real Medicare negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry to lower the cost of prescription drugs. That's probably the issue most on people's minds.

Maybe the issue second most on people's minds is the understanding that it is really insane that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world we have tens of millions of Americans, older Americans, who have no teeth in their mouth or are unable to digest the food that they're eating, people who cannot hear and communicate with their grandkids because they have no hearing aids, people unable to see this as America, the richest country in the world.

Bottom line is that any reconciliation bill must include serious negotiations on the part of Medicare with the pharmaceutical industry, lower the cost of prescription drugs. That's what the American people want. And a serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is that a red line for you? Is that a red line for you, sir? Sir, is that a red line for you?

SCIUTTO: CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju just speaking to Bernie Sanders there. Manu, Bernie Sanders, the issue seems to be, right, here we see Senator Sanders t here setting down a red line for him. It is reducing the cost of drugs. I mean, by my account, there are half a dozen red lines out there. I mean, where is the meeting of the minds? And can it happen in a timeframe they've been talking about?

RAJU: This is a very important comment that he made right there. He says that the bill must include serious expansion of Medicare for dental, vision, and health, as well as dealing with having Medicare allowing to negotiate those drug prices. Those have been two major sticking points and there have been signs that they were going to drop the Medicare expansion all together. That's what Joe Biden said at the CNN town hall last week, that it would be a reach to include dental, vision and health. Joe Manchin has been exposed to expanding that as well, concerns he said yesterday that it would be fiscally irresponsible to go that route.

So, Bernie sanders said a few weeks ago it was nonnegotiable to him, that it must be included in there, the Medicare expansion. I tried to just get him to say it would be a red line. He didn't say that explicitly but said, it must include serious ways to expand Medicare. So, we'll see what exactly that means but it's just another sign here, guys, that despite the optimism of Democratic leaders.


If they can get a deal within days on the larger social safety net package, there are still some major issues that they have to resolve between the left.