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Ex-FDA Leader: CDC & FDA Can Work Better Together; Voting Rights Activist Battle To Protect Elections Nationwide. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 13:30   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: But we're hearing Dr. Fauci say, hold on.


That remains an open question if that's where we are approaching now.

How do you see it and explain how we eventually get there.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: So, if you look at last winter when we didn't have much population immunity, right. December, January, very few people were immunized, far fewer people ad been naturally infected. Nonetheless when we got to sort mid-February, you clearly saw a decline in hospitalizations and clearly saw a decline in the number of deaths, because at its heart, SARS-CoV-2 -- independent of what variant it is -- is a winter virus, meaning it thrives in the winter.

And then the numbers came down, spring, summer, fall, early fall. And then they started to come up again. And now, we are where we were last year, except we're somewhat better off. Instead of having 4,000 deaths a day, 4,500 deaths, we have 1,500 deaths a day, 2,000 deaths a day.

And you would expect that what happened last winter will happen this winter, which is that by the time we hit -- I would imagine -- no later than mid-February, we'll see a decline again and it will come down again. And then, we will see where we are next winter, when we'll have again more population immunity.

But it just -- it seems to me that the answer here is obvious for how to get out of this, to get it to an endemic stage. We're not going to boost our way out of this pandemic and we're not going to test our way out of this pandemic. We can only vaccinate our way out of this vaccine.

Until we get the 80 million or so people who continue to not get at vaccine, we're going to be in trouble. And most those people, by the way, the group that's least likely to be vaccinated are people under 30. So we need to get young people vaccinated.

CABRERA: There has been some confusion over sort of those who are supposed to be guiding us through this pandemic and what's happening in terms of the administration's messaging, former deputy FDA commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, has a new op-ed in "The New York Times" today detailing how the CDC and the FDA can work better together and also in communicating with the American public. And one example is on child vaccines.

He writes this: It's astonishing that vaccine manufacturers have become the leading source for updates at regular CDC briefings. The FDA staff could explain the progress of key studies on vaccines for children under 5. There's no justification for keeping such information confidential.

Your response?

OFFIT: No, I agree with that to some extent. It feels like at times the pharmaceutical companies have become public health agencies because they are telling us when the next variant-specific vaccine is going to come out.

What we would like to see and we certainly have the people in place to do that, is you like to see most of the messaging coming out of the CDC, as least I would. I mean, if you look back at 2009, during the influenza pandemic, the swine flu pandemic, Richard Besser, who was head of the CDC, he was out there in front of the public answering questions from the media every other day, and it was comforting.

Rochelle Walensky is superb at what she does. I mean, she's this brilliant person, great researcher, educator, clinician, and most of the data coming out that we care about, meaning does -- do the current vaccines protect against omicron, to what extent? For how long? For how long did you shed infectious virus? That all comes from the CDC.

So I'd really love to see Dr. Walensky out there every other day answering questions from the media and helping direct messaging. She's the perfect person to do it.

CABRERA: Let's talk about how we keep schools open. So much discussion lately and yet today, there are still more than 1,800 schools nationwide not currently offering in-person learning. But here's the harm, according to a new report out today that analyzed dozens of studies from 11 different countries when schools closed distress, anxiety and bad health behaviors like more screen time, less physical activity, it all happens.

So what's the message here for school leaders?

OFFIT: We all agree children should go back to school. They have probably been most hurt in lack of socialization and activities more than any other group and off-site learning is far less effective than on-site learning. So we all agree with that. Nonetheless, we don't vaccinate our children, right? I mean, 50 percent of 12 to 15-year- olds aren't vaccinated.

Seventy percent of 5 to 11-year-olds aren't vaccinated. This is the best thing we can do to keep our children safe. We want to keep them safe in school. Vaccines are the best way to do that and yet we still choose not to vaccinate our children. I just don't understand it.

Real quickly, a follow to that. I've heard from parents who are hesitant, who cite some of the data. In fact, we have the American Academy of Pediatrics latest statistics show among states that are reporting, 0.00 percent and 0.02 percent of all child COVID-19 cases have resulted in death. So it's such a slim majority.

Can you explain to those parents who see numbers like this and explain why they should still choose to vaccinate their children?

OFFIT: It's a common virus, so even a small percentage of something that's common can result in a lot of hospitalizations and deaths.


You know, it's not just about deaths. Also, it's hospitalizations, ICU admissions. I mean, first of all, about 1,000 children less than 18 years of age died. I mean, that's certainly far more than we would see every year from measles or influenza or chicken pox for which we also have vaccines.

So, these are every reason to get. This vaccine has been out in millions and millions of children. You know its safety profile. You know its efficacy profile. There's no more secrets anymore with these vaccines. So let's get our kids vaccinated.

CABRERA: Dr. Offit, great to have you here. Thanks so much for all that you do and for being here with us.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema is blocking her party's voting rights legislation but Democrats could argue her state is one of the places where their bills are needed most. CNN takes a closer look at two Trump-backed Republicans running to run elections in Sinema's home state of Arizona.



CABRERA: Today, Senate Democrats take their first steps towards bringing voting rights legislation to the floor in a move that appears doomed to fail, but the campaign by Donald Trump and his supporters to undermine U.S. elections is alive and well.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has more on the fight over voting rights.


DEMONSTRATORS: No celebration without legislation!

CAMILLA WESTENBERG, MARCHING FOR VOTING RIGHTS IN ARIZONA: We all have a voice in this country in which we live, and voting is that opportunity that we have.

DEMONSTRATORS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, the filibuster's got to go!

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in Arizona, a battle for the future of American democracy. MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We wanted to come on

this day because there's also a senator, Senator Sinema, who seems to be blocking democracy instead of being on the side of advancing democracy.

Senator Sinema --

O'SULLIVAN: The King family here calling on Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema to stand up for voters' rights.

KING: She says she wants voting rights, but how do you want voting rights without creating a path for that to happen? That is inconsistent, and that is unacceptable.

O'SULLIVAN: Sinema and fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia are blocking the percentage of a pair of voting rights bills aimed at countering some of the restrictive voting measures enacted by Republicans at the state level. Sinema says she is supportive of the bills but not in favor of changing Senate rules to get them passed.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.

O'SULLIVAN: That stands music to the ears of some Trump supporters this weekend on hand at a real for Trump in Sinema's home state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God bless Kyrsten Sinema and what she's doing, you know?

ROBBIE KIMSEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Kyrsten Sinema, good for her, you know? She's our representative. She represents the state. She's not along party lines. She's what's good for the country.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you like Kyrsten Sinema?


JACKIE LEWIS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yeah, absolutely. And Manchin. In fact, I have sent e-mails to them encouraging them to stand up and do what's right for the people of Arizona.

O'SULLIVAN: Those supporters in line for Trump's rally Saturday also in attendance a hodgepodge of election deniers like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Congressman Paul Gosar, and even Ali Alexander, one of the main organizers of Stop the Steal who went into hiding after the insurrection and was recently called in front of the January 6th House Select Committee.

Hey, Ali, are you worried that you might get indicted?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Thank you, Arizona. Thank you. Thank you. O'SULLIVAN: Trump giving his support to two election deniers who are

running to control elections in the state. Kari Lake is running for governor.

KARI LAKE (R), CANDIDATE FOR ARIZONA GOVERNOR: There's a few other people I'd like to send right down to the prison right down here in Florence. Anybody who was involved in that corrupt, shady, shoddy election of 2020, lock them up.

O'SULLIVAN: And Mark Finchem who previously said he was an Oath Keeper and is now running for secretary of state.


O'SULLIVAN: Finchem has echoed QAnon-type conspiracies about elected officials.

FINCHEM: There's a lot of people involved in a pedophile network, in the distribution of children. And, unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.

O'SULLIVAN: And he continues to falsely attack the illegitimacy of the 2020 election here in Arizona.

FINCHEM: I look to the day when we set aside an irredeemably flawed election. That's the election of 2020. With all the evidence that we have, the Arizona election should be decertified by the -- with cause, by the legislature.

O'SULLIVAN: That's part of a national trend. A "Washington Post" tally finding 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump's false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections. Arizona's current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs now running for governor.


KATIE HOBBS (D), CANDIDATE FOR ARIZONA GOVERNOR: I think we are really at a defining moment. I mean, in 2020, democracy prevailed and 2020 and after 2020 democracy prevailed because people on both sides of the aisle did their jobs, and what we're seeing now is just this multi- pronged attack, and one of those prongs is Trump trying to instill his loyalists into key positions that have some level of determination over how elections are certified and conducted, and that's pretty scary.

DEMONSTRATORS: We will pass this bill.

O'SULLIVAN: And on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, his 13- year-old granddaughter following in her grandfather's footsteps with a warning for today.

YOLANDA RENEE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S GRANDDAUGHTER: I think it's so important to vote and it's so important to have the right to vote because right now our country is at stake.

O'SULLIVAN: Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


CABRERA: Coming up, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he was never warned that a bring-your-own-booze party held in his back garden during the height of the country's lockdown would break COVID-19 restrictions. If only he had listened to his own speech just ten days before the party.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You must obey the rules on social distancing, and to enforce those rules, we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.




CABRERA: Right now, there are more than 300 million confirmed COVID cases worldwide and more than 5 million deaths. As our international correspondents show us, many governments are taking aggressive steps to bring down the numbers of new cases.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Selina Wang in Tokyo. Omicron is spreading in China just weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics. It's now in multiple cities across the country and Beijing just reporting three new COVID cases, two of them linked to an omicron case.

In response, authorities are locking down residences, workplaces, across China, some 20 million people are sealed off in their homes. When Olympic athletes arrive in China, they'll be gathering under some of the strictest COVID rules in the world.

And meanwhile, Hong Kong is also doubling down on this zero COVID strategy. The city says it's going to euthanize around 2,000 small animals, and all pet shops have to hand over their hamsters to be killed. These extreme measures in response to one shop worker testing positive for COVID along with around a dozen hamsters from that shop.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in London. More denials and more trouble for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The latest accusation coming from one of his former top aides, Dominic Cummings, accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not only knowing an event on May 20, 2020, was a party. He also alleges that the prime minister was urged to cancel it, but brushed those concerns away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outright denied this claim, saying he categorically believed that the event was a work function. Still, there is a whole string of allegations of partying at Downing Street stretching from the first lockdown in May of 2020 into spring of last year, all of this is under investigation.


CABRERA: Our thanks to our CNN International teams for those reports.

Don't look up. An asteroid twice the size of the Empire State Building is expected to fly by Earth today. So just how worried is NASA? That's next.



CABRERA: We are getting our first look at the widespread destruction in Tonga following what is believed to be the biggest volcanic eruption anywhere on the planet in the past 30 years.

Take a look at this. These are satellite images taken before and after the eruption. Entire communities are now completely covered in this thick blanket of volcanic dust, and some buildings have collapsed. Tonga's prime minister says that in addition to massive ash clouds, some areas were hit by 15-meter tsunami waves, wiping out every single home on at least one island.

The full extent of the crisis, though, is still unknown. All of this ash is preventing planes from landing at the capital's airport. And the island's key communication cable has been severed, essentially cutting off Tonga from the outside world. Scientists say the eruption is a once in a millennium event so massive, in fact, that super sonic air pressure waves could be seen from space and were felt as far away as the U.K.

Remarkably, just three deaths have been reported so far. But that number could still grow as aid workers gain access to the island.

NASA is calling it a potentially hazardous asteroid. It is bigger than the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and more than twice the size of the Empire State Building, and it is set to pass by Earth later today. And while those numbers may seem daunting, NASA has been studying this asteroid known as 7482 for decades and rest assured, experts say, it will pass at a safe distance, more than a million miles from Earth.

Finally, just a quick programming note for you. You know her face, but Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe was so much more. Learn all about her life and career. The CNN original series, "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe" airs Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That does it for us today. Thanks for joining us. See you back here tomorrow at 1:00. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

And the news continues with Alisyn and Victor after this.