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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Moderna: COVID-19 Vaccine Safe And Ready For Children Under 5; Biden Taking A "Hard Look" At Forgiving Student Loan Debt; FDA Moves To Ban Menthol Cigarettes And Flavored Cigars. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Oklahoma lawmakers approving a bill banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. It would prohibit abortions as soon as a physician can detect cardiac activity. Now, that can be as early as six weeks and that's before many women even know they are pregnant.

It is modeled on that controversial Texas law. Both allow private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who performs or aids an abortion. Oklahoma's Republican governor is expected to sign that bill into law.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the news so many parents have been waiting for. Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is, in fact, safe for young children. The company is now seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA for children six months up to 6 years old. Moderna would be the first company to do this as no COVID vaccines have been authorized in the U.S. for kids younger than five.

Joining us now, Dr. Elizabeth Murray. She is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Doctor Murray, so nice to have you back.

This is the news I have been waiting for and so many parents of toddlers have been waiting for. How did it take so long to get to this point?

DR. ELIZABETH MURRAY, PEDIATRIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, GOLISANO CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER (via Skype): Well, we have to follow the process, right, and we don't want to rush the science. We don't want to rush the data collection. And so, we also know that this was being studied during a time of changing variants as well, so it took a little bit longer perhaps to get the data. But we want to make sure the data is robust.

So it is frustrating that it took so long but, again, we've got to trust the process and make sure the data is collected and we get the information that we need. And hopefully, over the next few days as that data is released, we will see what we need to see.

JARRETT: Can I just ask about the variant issue here. Is the vaccine that's being -- that would be given to children still based off of the old strain? In other words, the vaccine that Christine and I got was based off of the original strain. It wasn't based off of Omicron. Which one are the kids going to get?


MURRAY: I believe -- again, we don't -- we don't do science by press release so the data is not all out, but I believe it is still based on that kind of ancestral strain.


MURRAY: We will see as it comes out.

ROMANS: Moderna says the vaccine shows a favorable safety profile but the efficacy rate for preventing infection -- it isn't high, really. Why is it still worth getting kids vaccinated if their likelihood of becoming ill is already very low?

MURRAY: Well, unfortunately, we know that almost 500 children in this age group have died from the --


MURRAY: -- COVID-19, and children aren't supposed to die. So any layers of protection we can offer, especially ones that have such an excellent safety profile as this vaccine appears to have. It is certainly on par with all of the other early childhood vaccines from a safety profile.

And so, this study was a bridging study to look for the best doses, to look for the appropriate response, and it met the goals. It met the targets of the study. So this is still going to be robust protection against severe disease and against death.

We wish we had a magic bullet that could prevent any disease transmission. We're not there yet but I think in time we will. But right now, this is a great layer of protection to prevent against severe disease and death for the -- for almost all of our age groups now -- six months and beyond. It's going to be a good thing.

JARRETT: Yes, it's going to definitely be a good thing and hopefully, Pfizer will follow right behind them.

So, on top of worrying about COVID, and the flu, and RSV, I am now told I need to worry about pediatric hepatitis cases. Tell us about why this is happening now. I understand it's still a small subset of cases. But, in particular, what should parents be on the lookout for? What can we do?

MURRAY: Yes. So we're not exactly sure why it is happening now but there's two key things to realize here for parents.

The first one is its symptoms are not subtle. So, we know the stomach bugs are incredibly common and they've been incredibly common over the past month and a half as we kind of remove masks and start to interact more with each other. But the stomach bugs that kids have is still going to be far more common than this much more concerning injury to the liver.

And so, a simple vomiting and some diarrhea -- you're going to follow your normal protocols that you would for making sure your child is hydrated and touching base with a doctor along those lines.

These children are quite, quite ill, so a parent is not going to miss these symptoms. They have severe belly pain -- really uncomfortable -- and they start to have a change in their skin -- it's called jaundice -- where they start to look kind of yellow. The whites of their eyes get yellow as well. So again, symptoms here are not subtle.

The other key point is case numbers are going to go up because we are collecting data. So all physicians throughout the country have now been alerted to this and we know it's now reportable. And we know that there are certain tests we have to do should we face a patient with these severe symptoms. And so, expect case numbers to go up in the coming weeks because we are collecting data on it.

A month ago, I might have seen a child that would have fit the criteria but I was not reporting it then because it wasn't --


MURRAY: -- identified yet as this potential signal of something bigger going on. It does appear to be related we think, right now, to a certain class of viruses in the adenovirus family. That's a pretty notorious one for causing stomach upset. But more to follow on this.

But I'm glad that we are now having this robust data collection system in place because more information is just that -- it's more information that will help us get answers.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely.

OK, Dr. Elizabeth Murray, thank you so much -- pediatric emergency medicine physician. Nice to see you bright and early this morning -- thanks.

JARRETT: Thank you.

MURRAY: Thank you.

JARRETT: Still ahead -- still ahead, the late-night T.V. host who now says he's going to step down from his show.

ROMANS: And Joe Biden on forgiving student loan debt. What he will and will not do.



ROMANS: All right. President Biden under pressure to fulfill that campaign promise to relieve student loan debt. He says he's considering it but will only go so far.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am considering dealing with some debt reduction. I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction but I'm in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there are going to -- there will be additional debt forgiveness.


ROMANS: CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in our Washington bureau. Jasmine, what has the president signaled he is willing to do?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Well, let me tell you that he was very clear about what he won't do here, Christine, and that is forgive up to $50,000 in debt for student loan borrowers. There are about 43 million across the country. And that is something he is under pressure from lawmakers to do. He said very clearly that he won't.

He said, instead, that he's taking a hard look at what exactly can be done in terms of debt forgiveness through executive order, and that's going to be on top of everything that he has already done. Remember, so far, he's continued to extend that student loan pause for federal loans, as well as he's made it easier for folks who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges, as well as those who are in public service to access forgiveness through those already existing programs.

And now, the White House has long said that President Biden would be in favor of forgiving about $10,000 in debt only if Congress moved, OK? That's a big if and it looks like something that Congress is just not able to do. So again, Christine, it comes back to the president -- back to that presidential power and what he is willing to do.

Now, over the course of the week, lawmakers who have met with him have said he's signaled some positivity into doing some things to forgive student loan. But as the White House said yesterday, that process has not concluded.

So, Christine, to answer your question, it's unclear about where the president is willing to go here.

ROMANS: Yes, unclear -- and already, the battle lines have been drawn here. You've got conservatives saying this is sort of -- would be a handout for greedy borrowers, but progressives saying hey, wait -- tax cuts for rich people -- that's stimulus. But forgiving student loan debt -- somehow, that's a handout. It doesn't make sense. We'll see how this plays out.

Thank you so much, Jasmine. Nice to see you.

JARRETT: All right, let's get a little sports now. The first round of the NFL draft is in the books with defensive players leading the way. Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.



So last night's first round began with a run of five-straight defensive players getting selected. It was the first time since 1991 that the first five picks were all on the defensive side of the ball.

And the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Georgia defensive end Trayvon Walker with that first overall pick. Walker originally projected as a mid to late first-round pick, but after dominating the Combine and draft process, he shot all the way up to number one.

The national champion Bulldogs making history as the first defense to produce five first-round picks in the draft. Those five picks were more than the ACC, Pac-12, and Big 12 each had as a conference.

The first and only quarterback taken in the first round was Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, who is staying home after going to the Steelers with the 20th pick.





SCHOLES: Yes, and check out the reaction from Steelers fans when the pick was announced. They were certainly happy. Pickett is the first pick Q.B. taken in the first round since Dan Marino in 1983. And that pick 20 -- it was the latest into a draft that the first quarterback has been taken since 1997.

Now, there was a huge run on receivers in the draft. Six of them were picked in the top 18 for the first time ever. And there was a huge crowd of more than 100,000 on hand in Las Vegas to watch it all.

Rounds two and three are tonight. Four through seven will take place on Saturday.

All right, to the NBA. The Jazz facing elimination last night. And star center Rudy Gobert had a swollen face. That's because he got stung by bees from his own hive.

He still played in the game as Utah was trying to stay alive. This game was really good late. Jalen Brunson coming up huge again and makes this three with two minutes to go to give the Mavs the lead. Final seconds -- Utah had a chance to win it. Bojan Bogdanovic -- an amazing look, but it's no good.

Mavs win 98-96. Luka Doncic is on to the second round for the first time as Dallas wins its series for the first time since winning it all back in 2011.

All right, Chris Paul, meanwhile, was perfect last night, literally. CP3 was 14 for 14, which is the most field goals without a miss in playoff history. He led Phoenix with 33 points. They came back in the fourth quarter to eliminate the Pelicans in six games.

CP3 very close with Pelicans' coach Willie Green. They played together and remain great friends. They shared a nice embrace, as did Green with his former boss, Suns coach Monty Williams.

Phoenix is going to host Dallas in round two starting on Monday.

All right, finally, a great moment for last night's Cubs-Braves game. Chicago all-star catcher Willson Contreras shared the field with his little brother William for the first time in their professional careers. The two shared a hug and were wiping away tears as they exchanged their respective teams' lineup cards at home plate.

The moment was made possible when the Braves recalled William from the minors earlier in the day. William wasn't in the lineup but his Braves did go on to win this game 5-1. Pretty cool for the Contreras family there, guys, that they got to see both William and Willson playing on the field together --

ROMANS: That is so cool.

SCHOLES: -- for the first time in the bigs.

ROMANS: Very cool. Brotherly love.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy.

ROMANS: All right.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: In competition, probably.

Thanks so much, Andy.

JARRETT: Just ahead, the long, overdue goodbye for some highly- addictive cigarettes could be on the way.

ROMANS: And how one man made $11 billion in a single day.



JARRETT: The FDA is proposing a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. It's a move that according to one research estimate could lead to a 15% decline in tobacco use over the next few years.

Let's bring in Peter Pitts, former FDA associate commissioner, now president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. So nice to have you this morning.


JARRETT: I really appreciate you coming on. This is something we both care a lot about so it's exciting to talk to you.

If this ban goes through how long could it actually take before we see these things fly off the shelves? We're talking years, right?

PITTS: Firstly, it will go through. It has to go through. The common peer (ph) starts May 5 and ends just after the Fourth of July. And then the lawsuits start. I would predict they've got a year probably, quickly, to get these things off the market. Longer if the tobacco -- if big tobacco really slams its money down on the table, which I think that it will. But it is going to happen.

And despite the delay, now is the time to really start educating the communities that use menthol cigarettes that they're going away. People need to stop smoking. There are alternatives.

And we need to get to it. These are the -- these are the same communities that got slammed during COVID-19. We've got to teach them how to take care of themselves and we've got to put money against it, too.

ROMANS: Well, this is a product that's been marketed to young smokers and to -- and to communities of color. Am I right?

PITTS: That's exactly right, yes. These are the cigarettes that kids use to start smoking. It's supposedly easier even though it's not. And 85% of Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.

And the health consequences are severe. They are not inexpensive. And again, these communities were slammed by COVID-19.


PITTS: We've got to pay attention to the health literacy and especially when it comes to tobacco.

ROMANS: This has been a long goodbye. I mean, it was like a decade ago that this got a special carveout for other flavored products. That somehow menthol was allowed to persist.

How long until we get these out of the hands of smokers? And do those smokers quit smoking or do they turn to other products?


PITTS: Oh, I think ultimately, we have to -- we have to put alternatives in front of these people. We have to help them quit smoking. There are drugs. There are cognitive therapies. And vaping is a good

tool for smoking cessation, especially menthol vaping. Not to vape continually but to get off of smoking. That's the goal here.

And we have to put money against it. People like Al Sharpton take money from the tobacco industry. Al Sharpton is lobbying the White House against this rule. I challenge Rev. Sharpton to put all the money he gets from big tobacco into education programs in his communities to get people off of these cigarettes.

JARRETT: You say it's important to remember that this is not punitive. That this is about public health. Is the infrastructure there? Is the Biden administration engaged on this issue?

PITTS: I don't know. I think that if you look at past circumstances, President Biden's got his eye on a -- on a variety of issues.


PITTS: This is going to take time.

I think what the president has to signal -- and, like, right now -- is that he's for this ban. It is going to go through. He does not want to be lobbied. It's an important public health issue. And make the tobacco companies say we're going to let it go through.

But again, I think you have to be realistic and I expect the lawsuits to start hitting early, often, and fiercely.

ROMANS: Well, I started to see some of these restrictions for flavored products. I'm surprised today you can still buy menthol cigarettes. To be honest, I'm surprised you can still buy menthol cigarettes.

PITTS: Isn't that incredible? I mean, we've taken all of the flavored cigarettes off the market. We've taken all of the candy-flavored vapes off the market. And yet, menthol is there as though it didn't make a difference.

It makes a huge difference, and it makes a huge difference to a targeted population and also to a young population. It's time that they go away forever.

ROMANS: All right, Peter Pitts, former FDA associate commissioner. So nice of you to drop by this morning. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Come back soon.

PITTS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business quickly this Friday morning.

Looking at markets around the world, gains in Asian shares, and Europe has opened slightly higher here. On Wall Street, stock index futures, though, leaning down a little bit. The market soared Thursday, rebounding from a month now of steep losses. Strong earnings reports from a few tech stocks led that rebound. Investors also seeming, at least for now, to shake off signs of a possible economic contraction -- that 1.4% GDP decline we reported earlier.

All right. Mark Zuckerberg got $11 billion richer yesterday. That's because shares of Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, shot up more than 17%. Investors celebrating the company's turnaround on user numbers, a key metric for advertisers.

Russia's war on Ukraine is costing McDonald's millions. The fast-food giant temporarily closed its restaurants in Russia and Ukraine last month, costing the company $127 million last quarter. Most of that is from unused food that now has to be thrown out. McDonald's is still paying its 62,000 Russian employees and its workers in Ukraine.

JARRETT: James Corden says he planning to leave "THE LATE LATE SHOW" on CBS next year. During Thursday's taping, Corden announced that he's leaving the show he's hosted since 2015. He says it's been the hardest decision he's ever had to make.


JAMES CORDEN, HOST, CBS "THE LATE LATE SHOW": I never want this show to overstay its welcome in any way. I always want to love making it. And I really think in a year from now that will be a good time to move on and see what else might be out there.


JARRETT: Corden's Crosswalk the Musical and Carpool Karaoke segments have helped "THE LATE LATE SHOW" generate more than a billion views on YouTube.

It will be exciting to see what he does. He's so talented.

ROMANS: He is really talented.

JARRETT: He's so funny. I love Carpool Karaoke.

ROMANS: And he's such a good singer. His comic timing is so great.

JARRETT: And he brings people out of their shell.

ROMANS: He does.

JARRETT: Like he finds a way to draw them in.

ROMANS: I can't wait to see what he does next.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. Have a great weekend, everyone. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, April 29. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And we do have breaking news from the battered port city of Mariupol. The Ukrainian president's office announced an operation against civilians out of the Azovstal steel plant. They say it is planned for today. But the plan has already hit a snag. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are blocking part of that complex.

This site has become something of a last line of defense for Ukraine in that city. Officials say it was hit by 50 airstrikes in the last 24 hours. The situation is critical. We are scrambling to get the latest information.

In just a few moments, we will hear from a Ukrainian army commander inside the plant. We're told there are hundreds of people there, including dozens of children. The youngest is just four months old.

Also breaking overnight, more signs of Ukrainian counterstrikes in areas controlled by Russia or inside Russia itself. This is a fuel depot attacked and set on fire in part of the Donetsk region that's controlled by Russian-backed forces. Ukraine is not commenting on that.

Also, a strike at a checkpoint up here near Kursk. I can show you also where the attack on Donetsk was. These are areas where the Russians are saying the Ukrainians are striking back.