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Pfizer Says, Vaccine Safe for Kids 5-11, Shows Robust Antibody Response; FBI Says, Gabby Petito's Body Likely Found, Fiancee Still Missing; Biden, Macron to Speak as France Livid over Betrayal. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Of the amount of the vaccine given to people 12 years and older.


Pfizer says the levels compared well with older people who received the larger dose. The company says it now plans to submit for emergency use authorization from the FDA soon and that it is also expecting trial data for children as young as six months as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: And joining us now is the former assistant secretary of health and former coronavirus testing czar in the Trump administration, Admiral Brett Giroir.

How are you seeing this announcement and how this is going to affect the fight against COVID?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR (RET.), FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thanks for having me on. Obviously, this is very good news. We only have the press release from Pfizer. But I would expect, as they suggested, that the immune response in children is very robust. And, apparently, that's what it shows. Again, we have to wait for the data.

But when we talk about safety, we have to be careful because these are only 2,200 children. So there was no obvious safety signal there. And I'm sure the FDA advisory committee will be weighing the risk/benefits. We know there are lots of cases in children but the risk of dying is still very, very low. So that risk/benefit will be very important to be weighed.

But no doubt about it, this is great news, you know, good way to start the day and the week in our fight against coronavirus.

KEILAR: I mean, this means that kids who are in kindergarten or older, and those kids are back in school at this point, can be vaccinated. When do you think if a parent is looking at the calendar, worried about going into winter, when do you think that will happen by?

GIROIR: So I think we still have to go through the process. If Pfizer submits the data by the end of September, which they suggested in the press release, you can get an authorization probably within the next four to six weeks. Now, I don't want to presuppose that authorization is going to happen because, again, it is risk/benefit.

The risk of hospitalization of children is still very, very low and the risk of death is low. So they're going to have to weigh that risk/benefit. And, again, I don't want to presuppose that. That's what VERPAC, the advisory committee will do. And you saw them weigh that last week, which is why we don't have boosters except for those over 65.

KEILAR: All right. So, how do you weigh that? Because even though for children, the risk is low, it has increased with the delta variant about five times, I believe, when it comes to hospitalizations, still small, but, wow, that's quite a jump.

GIROIR: Yes, absolutely. And I don't want to underestimate or underemphasize. We have about 250,000 cases among children every week right now. So that is a tremendous increase. And about 1 percent of those get hospitalized. So this is really very, very significant.

What I would like to see happen is there's been 110 deaths in the 5 to 11-year-olds. I would really like the CDC to look at every single one of those deaths to make sure that we give the FDA the opportunity to at least authorization it in high-risk groups.

And one of my big pet peeves is only 24 states report children hospitalizations. That is absolutely egregious. We need every state to report children who are in hospitalizations so we could make these kind of decisions.

The FDA has a tough job, and our lack of reporting by the states, including my home state of Texas, but also New York, is making this much more difficult on the FDA.

KEILAR: When you look at what this age group and this trial got, they got a smaller dose. It was ten micrograms compared to the normal 30 micrograms that 12 and over get in the Pfizer vaccine. Tell us why that matters and how parents should be looking at this.

GIROIR: Well, this is a very appropriate step. I'm a pediatrician and a pediatric ICU doctor. And very typically, and I think every parent knows this, you know, you give children's doses of whether it's Tylenol or ibuprofen or even antibiotics.

So it's very common that a smaller dose would be needed in a smaller child. I don't know all the data that Pfizer looked at, but I'm sure they did a very careful analysis. And it is a much smaller dose, about a third of that in adult and sort of a priority (ph) that that sounds right to a pediatrician and it's going to make sense to most mom and dads. Children need smaller doses. This is a smaller dose.

KEILAR: If this is safe for this age group five and over, what does this tell us about if it's going to be safe for those under five?

GIROIR: We build on data, right? We never want to presuppose that a one-year-old is the same as a 50year-old or even a one-year-old is the same as a ten-year-old. But this is building a foundation and this is done properly, that we give it to the higher risk groups first, we give it to adults. It is a remarkably safe vaccine. Everybody over 16 for sure ought to be getting this vaccine. And we build on that foundation and it's been remarkably safe.


So, the odds are, it is going to be safe in the younger age groups but we never want to make bets on our children. That it's why we look at the data. And this has been done carefully and cautiously and at the appropriate steps.

So, I'm very hopeful that it will be safe. It's likely going to be safe. But we still need to look at the data to make sure. We don't want to risk our children.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, there is a lot of messaging that has to be done around this because the numbers are showing us that even kids 12 and older aren't getting vaccinated at a very high rate, right? So, this is something doctors and public officials are going to need to communicate.

I do want to ask you about today, which is September 20th, this was supposed to be the day, the week that the White House has announced widespread booster rollout began. And Dr. Fauci defended his and the administration's early calls for these widespread boosters after the FDA rejected the widespread booster on Friday.

Do you think that the White House jumped the gun, the administration jumped the gun on calling for these boosters?

GIROIR: Well, they definitely jumped the gun by giving a deadline of September 20th. They really got the policy ahead of the science. And, again, this is a hard job. But I think they should have positioned it the way we positioned it, is that as soon as boosters are authorized by the FDA, we will have them within 48 hours to pharmacies. They did jump the gun by giving a deadline.

And I bet they regret that now and that won't happen again. But I don't want the messaging to be confused. The fact that boosters weren't authorized for people under 65 means nothing about the fact that you should get a vaccine if you're authorized to get a vaccine, you should get it. They are highly protective. And very important for those over 65, they did authorize that. And we do know that there is waning immunity and risk of hospitalizations in those over 65. So, boosters over 65, get the vaccine for everyone else.

And it is possible that we will have boosters in the future for everyone. It's just the data are not there now. And that's good, right? It's good. Because people under 65 don't get hospitalized and don't die just with two doses. That's great news.

So, let's look at it in a perspective. The fact that you don't need a booster is really good and it shows the effectiveness of the vaccine. KEILAR: Yes. I do want to ask you about something that we heard from the former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb. He was talking about something you and the task force began last year.


DR.SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The six feet was arbitrary in and of itself. Nobody knows where it came from. The initial recommendation that the CDC brought to the White House, and they talk about this, was ten feet. And a political appointee in the White House said we can't recommend ten feet. Nobody can measure ten feet. It's inoperable. Society will shutdown. So the compromise was around six feet.

Now, imagine if that detail have leaked out. Everyone would have said, this is the White House interfering with the CDC's judgment. The CDC said ten feet, it should be ten feet. But ten feet was no more right than six feet.

So the whole thing feels arbitrary and not science-based. So we talk about a very careful science-based process, and these anecdotes get exposed and that's where Americans start to lose confidence in how the decisions got made.


KEILAR: Tell us about that. He is saying it's arbitrary, this distance that so many regulations have glommed on to.

GIROIR: So, first of all, I don't remember any conversation in the situation room where ten feet was discussed. It was always six feet or three feet. But it may be true. I just was not a witness to that and it certainly wasn't in the task force meetings.

The second piece that I think is important is there's a difference between arbitrary, which Scott just said, and there's a difference between arbitrary and not having the exact data in making your best judgment. And a lot of what we have in the pandemic is not written in stone but it's not arbitrary either. It's based on your best judgment.

There is a lot of data looking at how far particles go before they settle, what size particles. And the CDC made their best judgment on the data that were there. They also made their best judgment on epidemiologic data, like transmission in limited settings, like restaurants or in choir practices.

So, the six feet is not written in stone. It could be five feet. It could be seven feet. We know with masks, they can be three feet. But it wasn't arbitrary, first of all. It was based on the data that we have.

And, secondly, I do think it's important that public health recommendation need to be operationalized, it needs to doable by people. If you tell them you need to be 5.76 feet away from someone, that doesn't make sense. It has to be operational. Six feet is something that people can understand. It matched the data. And I think the CDC made a reasonable recommendation based on that.


KEILAR: He's saying it was a political decision, not a scientific one. You disagree with that?

GIROIR: I told you first, I never heard the ten feet mentioned in the situation room. Scott was certainly not in the situation room. He parachuted out of the administration before the pandemic hit. So, he may have that information. I'm telling you I never heard that information and it was never a topic of discussion where the politics would have happened in the situation room with the vice president, president. It was always six feet. I never heard the ten feet number. That's just my experience.

KEILAR: All right. Admiral, thank you for being with us on a really big day here for vaccines. Admiral Brett Giroir, I appreciate it.

GIROIR: Thank you.

BERMAN: So,what does this mean for the economy? Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans joins me now. With this, kids have parents, Romans, and that's what this is about.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what this is about. It's an important development for parents desperate to get back to normal. We need two things for a post-COVID economy, more vaccinations for grownups and COVID vaccines for kids.

Now, one thing holding back the jobs recovery has been parents who aren't going back to work because they are caring for their kids in a pandemic. Schools are mostly open this fall thankfully in person. But many parents are still concerned about potential outbreaks among unvaccinated elementary school children and the inevitable school disruptions.

And outside of schools, there is a child care crisis. John, the typical child care worker earns $12 an hour and child care workers have quit in droves. The pandemic puts their health at risk going to work, and the remaining child care workers that we have, they are simply burned out. Without reliable child care for younger children, women in particular, are in a bind. The economist at the Atlanta fed found before the pandemic women with children under six, they made up 10 percent of the workforce, when COVID hit, they accounted for 22 percent of the job loss. So, anything that can make kids safe during COVID is critical for the economic recovery.

And, John, another important headline on the COVID economy this morning, another reason for grownups to be vaccinated, Kaiser Family Foundation found 72 percent of health insurance plans, they are no longer covering the entire cost of COVID treatments. At the onset of COVID, most health insurers waived your out-of-pocket costs for COVID treatments, now with vaccines widely available, they are treating COVID like any other illness. You are susceptible to deductibles and co-pays. So, the vaccine is free, the infection could cost you thousands of dollars. John? BERMAN: Yes. COVID will cost you. It could cost you your health but also a lot of money.

Just one thing I want to point out is that we just looked at the numbers. 42 percent of kids 12 to 15-year-old received the vaccine. So, in order for the vaccines to make a difference from 5 to 11, we need to get the rate up.

ROMANS: We need grownups to be more vaccinated and we need more young people to be vaccinated and we need to make sure we are expanding -- vaccinations, John, are the way out of this COVID -- the new economy, the post-COVID economy depends on vaccinations.

BERMAN: Yes, take them to make sure they work though. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

All right, we have breaking news on the cross country search for Gabby Petito. Investigators making a grim discovery as the search continues to look for her fiancee.

KEILAR: Also ahead, a growing humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Thousands of migrants setting up camp underneath a bridge in Texas. CNN will take you there.

And a move that could splinter the GOP for good, can Donald Trump oust Mitch McConnell from the Senate?



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a heartbreaking discovery in the search for a missing woman originally from New York who vanished on a cross country with her fiance. The FBI confirmed last night that human remains discovered in Wyoming are consistent with the description of the 22-year-old Gabby Petito. Authorities are still searching for her fiancee, Brian Laundrie, who has not been seen in almost a week.

Let's bring in Ed Davis. He's a former commissioner of the Boston Police Department who led the force during the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that followed. Commissioner, thank you so much for being with us.

This discovery I know is devastating for the family of Gabby Petito. What does it mean for the investigation itself?

ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, this is a critical time in the investigation. The key component of any investigation is the crime scene. And thankfully they have been able to discover that. And the officials will be there searching for evidence from the scene, anything that might put the suspect at that location, footprint, footwear impressions, tire impressions, things like cellular phone monitoring and identification of locations. Even in a rural area like that, that can provide extensive information to the investigation.

So, they will start right at that scene and work their way out from there, all of those, you know, forensic issues. And then they will follow that up with interviews, people in the area, looking at videotape even in the rural area. That provides extensive information.

BERMAN: And, again, as tragic and sad as it is, what story do the human remains themselves tell?

DAVIS: Well, they'll look at the condition that the body is in. They will develop a working theory as to what happened even before the postmortem is completed. And they will start to look for weapons. They will start to look for anything that would indicate exactly what happened here, what the story was.


Is this a crime of passion? Was there an argument? Is there something else going on here that none of us know about? There will be evidence at the scene. They have the van in Florida. They will go back and check the van very carefully. This is a very methodical process. But what they want to do is put together a timeline that shows exactly what occurred.

BERMAN: So, Brian Laundrie, who is the boyfriend, is now missing. Police say he's a person of interest in the case. They don't call him a suspect. I guess my first question is how could he have gone missing? How is it? Shouldn't authorities have been keeping their eyes on him this whole time?

DAVIS: The short answer to that is, yes, they should be paying attention to where he is and what he's up to. But I know from personal experience trying to do a 24/7 surveillance of someone and keeping them in your sights when you don't have enough to detain them is an extremely difficult proposition. We lose people all the time. If they have any sophistication at all, they can shake whatever tail you have on them. We don't know exactly what the police did, but I can tell you that it's not an easy proposition to follow someone you can't hold onto.

BERMAN: And, again, he is named as a person of interest right now. They have been searching this wildlife refuge area near where he lives in Florida and we're waiting for more information here. Commissioner Ed Davis, thanks so much for being with us.

DAVIS: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: The mayor of a Texas border town calling the situation dire, thousands of migrants setting up this makeshift camp forcing the Biden administration to take new, drastic action.

KEILAR: The president also dealing with the fallout from a diplomatic debacle with France. What does this mean for the U.S.'s relationship with one of its closest allies?


[07:25:00] KEILAR: As the president heads to New York tonight for the United Nations General Assembly, we are told he and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to speak in the coming days about a diplomatic crisis between the two nations.

In an extraordinary move, France has withdrawn its ambassador to the U.S. after Australia struck a deal with the U.S. to build nuclear- powered submarines backing out of a deal with the French.

Joining us now to talk about this is Robin Wright, a Columnist with The New Yorker and a distinguished fellow with the Wilson Center.

Look, this is a relationship historically and even in president times that is incredibly close. Months ago, Biden and Macron were walking arm and arm, really, the sort of intimate portrait of them when they had a summit together. Tell us the dynamics at play here. .

ROBIN WRIGHT, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER: Well, the issue on the surface is the sale of these nuclear submarines to Australia, which takes away the deal that France had long ago shaded for conventional submarines to Australia. But the real issue is the alliance. Joe Biden campaigned on getting America back in with the world, multilateral approaches on the big challenges of the 21st century, whether it's china, COVID, the global economy.

And this, for the French, is seen as walking away, being blindsided by a deal, as Biden and Macron were walking hand in hand. It's almost certain the United States, Australia and Britain were negotiating this deal as an alternative to France's teal. So France feels betrayed.

And the timing of it is terrible. In July, they unveiled a Statue of Liberty on the lawn of the French ambassadors with the secretary of state there. They were about to hold a celebration, the night that the French ambassador left to celebrate 240 years of French involvement in America's war of independence against Britain.

KEILAR: So I think people will say, well, why Australia? But you have to think back to this. I mean, President Obama, as he was trying to make the pivot to China, went to Northern Australia, right? He went to Darwin. They were amping up their military partnership with Australia because of Australia's proximity to China. So, this is a strategic decision here.

WRIGHT: It's a strategic decision. But, remember, France has territories in the Indo-Pacific Region and it wants to protect its people. So, it plays out economically. It plays out in terms of strategy. And it wanted to be part of the kind of western alliance in dealing with China.

KEILAR: When you see the pivot right now to China, the closing up shop in Afghanistan, how are you evaluating what you see the Biden administration doing?

WRIGHT: Well, Joe Biden is the most experienced president ever in foreign policy. He knew the world. He traveled it. And what's happened, whether it's in Afghanistan or with the French and more broadly in dealing with the Europeans, our closest allies, he looked rather clumsy. And I think his approach backfired on him. And the United States is likely to pay a price.

France and the United States will repair a relationship but I think there will be real cynicism and skepticism about U.S. credibility all over again, especially with the French charging that Biden is just acting as Trump did, America first.

KEILAR: They burned. And when you break the trust, it's hard to rebuild. We're seeing that as well in foreign relations between the U.S. and France.

Robin, great to see you, thank you for being here.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, it is Donald Trump versus the GOP, why the former president has set his sights on Senator Mitch McConnell.

BERMAN: Plus, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco under fire for appearing to flout her own mask rules. The back story, ahead.