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New Trial Data from Pfizer Indicates COVID-19 Vaccines Safe and Effective for Children Five to 11 years old; Remains of Missing Woman Gabby Petito Possibly Found as Police Continue Search for Her Missing Fiance; F.B.I. Says Gabby Petito's Body Likely Found, Fiance Still Missing; Senate Parliamentarian Deals Blow to Biden's $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan; D.H.S. Asks Pentagon for Help due to Migrant Influx. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The company says, now this is data that is coming from the company, it has not been peer reviewed, the company says the coronavirus vaccine is safe for that group, and it shows a robust antibody response.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now this is a trial that included participants ages five to 11 who took a two-dose regimen and used just a third of the amount of vaccine that would be administered to people who are 12 and older. Pfizer says the levels compared well with older people who received the larger dose, and the company says it now plans to submit for emergency use authorization from the FDA soon, and that it is expecting trial data for children as young as six months as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.

BERMAN: Joining us now is Dr. Tanya Altmann, she is a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also with us, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Altmann, I just want to start with you, the impact of this announcement.

DR. TANYA ALTMANN, PEDIATRICIAN: Sure. You know, I think this is really exciting. As a pediatrician and a parent of a six-year-old who is the only child in my household who is not yet vaccinated, I think this is going to make a huge difference in the fight against COVID-19.

And parents, pediatricians and teachers are waiting for this. It is very needed. And I think the data looks good and I'm waiting for the FDA, and I hope that they will thoroughly and aggressively review this data so that way when it is time and appropriate, we can get shots in arms into our younger kids.

BERMAN: Dr. Wen, what this data shows is a robust antibody response, Pfizer said, and also shows safety among the 2,000-plus kids in this trial. It doesn't get into efficacy, as in 90 percent effective against preventing infection. What do you want to see when you pore through this data?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is the first step. And I agree completely with Dr. Altmann that this is really exciting news. I think so many parents have been waiting for exactly this news, especially given what's happening now with the Delta variant.

There have been nearly half a million new cases in children in the last two weeks, 29 percent of the new infections are in kids, and parents want to do everything we can to protect our kids. And so knowing that the vaccine is safe in this younger age group, the five to 11 group, and also knowing that it appears to be effective at least based on antibody response.

We know thus far for adults that the antibody response does correlate the effectiveness in preventing disease. We do want to see those data eventually, but I also think that's important for Pfizer to submit to submit to the FDA soon and for us to get more information about when this vaccine can be made available. I think that timing is going to be really important for so many parents, especially coming into the cold winter season.

KEILAR: Dr. Altmann, when might -- look, I know we can't say exactly when it will be available for kids five and up, but looking at how things have moved before with the vaccine for adults, when might it be available? And how much of a lag time do you expect between the emergency use authorization and full authorization of this vaccine for kids five and up?

ALTMANN: So I think the FDA is ready to meet next week to really look at this data, because they know it's so important now, as Dr. Wen mentioned. We are just seeing rapidly increasing numbers of kids with COVID-19 throughout this country, including serious illness and hospitalization and death.

And so I think it's going to be about a month, probably, until Pfizer grants the EUA, and I think this is the right timing, as she said. We're going into cold and flu season. We are already seeing increased cases of RSV, other illnesses that are putting kids in the hospital. Flu is starting on the east coast now and it's going to make its way across the country. And don't forget, it's also time to get those flu vaccines right now.

But we all need to work together to keep our kids healthy and safe and in school. And once we begin vaccinating these kids, then we can take a look at all of the other mitigation strategies that we're using in schools, such as the masking and the distancing and the ventilation, and once numbers are at a low level, we can start peeling back some of those and get back to normalcy, which is what we need. It's been, I think, too long, and our kids are waiting for this.

KEILAR: Yes, they need their lives back for sure, and this may be the key to doing that safely. Dr. Wen, can you talk to us a little bit about the dosing here? Because this, and I think parents need to know this, this isn't the adult shot. This is 10 micrograms versus the normal 30 for adults. WEN: That's right, and so for the 12 and above group, those

individuals have been getting the 30 microgram dose, and understandably for the younger group, this is not the dose that is -- or there were many doses that were being tested, but the one that we have the results for now is really promising because this is the 10 microgram dose, so a third of what the adults are getting.

And that's why that effectiveness data is so important, because they have seen that even with this lower dose in this five to 11-year-old group, that it seems to stimulate that same type of antibody response, according to Pfizer, as the one that is a higher dose.


And so I think that, again, gives a lot of confidence that the antibody response is a correlate to effectiveness as we have seen in adults, and I think really paves the way for authorization hopefully very soon.

BERMAN: Dr. Altmann, we were just looking at some of the data from 12 to 17-year-olds, and it's about 46 percent of them are fully vaccinated, so it's half, right? So in order for this to make a real impact among five to 11-year-olds, they have to get the shots.

ALTMANN: They do, and that is something that we are really working on. We are educating families. Many schools are now putting in mandates. We are also bringing the vaccine to those neighborhoods where they really need access, so there's school vaccine clinics, there are mobile vaccine clinics. And I think all of this will help.

So many people have gotten the vaccine now, and side effects have really been minimal in the kids especially compared to the adults. We're seeing less fever and aches, and there were rare cases of myocarditis, but those all resolved. And I'd like to point out that Pfizer did report that in the younger kids aged five to 11, there were no cases of myocarditis, which is heart inflammation.

So I think we are seeing that as the kids are younger in age, this vaccine is safe, it is tolerable, and it is what we need right now to really get out of this pandemic.

BERMAN: Dr. Wen, do you think if a number of school kids get vaccinated, you could start to talk, or it would change the discussion about wearing masks in schools?

WEN: I do. I do think it's important for us to signal that masks are not for forever. No one wants for masking to be in place forever in our schools. Right now they are an important layer of protection. We think about this as layers in the winter, that it's really cold and so you have to put on multiple layers. And so when we don't yet have the layer of protection from the vaccine for younger kids, you need all these other layers, including indoor masking, especially this case, there's a lot of virus, or the corollary being it's really cold outside, you need to have a lot of layers.

But when you start having a much lower level of infection in the community, and when kids are able to all be vaccinated, I think we can start peeling back layers as Dr. Altmann said. And one of the early layers that we might want to discuss is, can we remove the mandatory masking if everyone in that class, including the children, are vaccinated?

KEILAR: And Dr. Altmann, what about kids younger than five? A lot of them are in school or they're in preschool or they're in daycares.

ALTMANN: Yes, and Pfizer is also studying this, about half of the kids in the initial trial were younger than five, and the dose they're looking at there is three micrograms. So even less than the five to 11-year-olds. The data is not complete. The studies are not yet complete. There are still many little ones in that trial. But I expect that over the next few months, that data will also be released, and we will be looking at an FDA EUA in that age group over the next few months.

So that means everyone down to six months of age will be protected against COVID-19 with a safe and tolerable vaccine that does produce an antibody level to protect against serious disease, illness, and hospitalization. And again, this is really what we've all been waiting for and what we need for our communities, for our schools to get everybody back to a more normal, healthy, and safe life.

KEILAR: I'm ready to get back to normal. I'll tell you that. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and we're living by their restrictions obviously, to keep them safe, and it would be lovely that everyone would have the opportunity to be protected. Dr. Tanya Altmann, Dr. Leana Wen, great to see you. Thank you.

We have much more as well coming up on CNN about this.

BERMAN: This morning a major development in the case of 22-year-old Gabby Petito who has been missing for weeks. Human remains believed to be Petito have been discovered in northern Wyoming. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow. The FBI says the cause of death has not yet been determined. Authorities are now searching for Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie, after he returned earlier this month from the couple's cross country road trip without her.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in North Port, Florida, with the very latest on this, just a huge, and also, I'm sure for the family, Leyla, a devastating development.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, and in just the last few minutes we have another development coming from North Port police. They tell us that they have no plans to conduct a major search in the Carlton Reserve. So what that means is the area, the 25,000 acres of a wildlife reserve where they searched all weekend long, a very lush and swampy area, is not necessarily the focus of their efforts today. North Port police not saying exactly why that is or where they will focus their search efforts.

But let's take you back as to what actually led them there in the first place. Remember, it was Friday night that police came here to the Laundrie home, excuse me, the Laundrie home, and the family claimed that the last time they saw Brian Laundrie was on Tuesday. They said that Friday, and indicated that he was headed toward the Carlton Reserve for a hike. That is where they spent the entire weekend, multiple law enforcements, including the FBI, spent much of their time searching for him, hoping they could find some answers.

And now we're learning that is changing. Now, we have been here all morning at this home. It's been pretty quiet here in this neighborhood. We're waiting to see if we'll see more law enforcement here or if they made contact with the Laundrie family inside. John?

BERMAN: Watching this very closely, obviously. Leyla. Thank you so much for being there for us. Please keep us posted.

So the key to this mystery now lies with Gabby Petito's fiance who is also missing. More for the search on him next.

KEILAR: Plus, a growing crisis at the southern U.S. border as a crowd of migrants under a Texas bridge is swelling to almost 12,000.

And President Biden facing blows to both his domestic and foreign policy agendas as he heads to the U.N. tomorrow.



KEILAR: We still do not know how Gabby Petito died, an autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow on the 22-year-old's remains that were found yesterday in Wyoming.

One person who might be able to tell investigators what happened to Petito is her fiance, Brian Laundrie who was last seen Tuesday by family members in Florida. The couple had left on a cross country road trip back in June, but Laundrie returned home earlier this month without Petito and he immediately lawyered up.

Joining me now is Anthony Barksdale, CNN law enforcement analyst and former Deputy Police Commissioner of Baltimore. You know, it seems like if you're law enforcement, Laundrie really is the key to a lot of the answers to their questions. They're looking for him in a 25,000 acre wilderness reserve. What does that entail?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I really think that this could be a little different based on technology. If he has been using a cell phone, if he used his cell phone, there are ways that you can track to a specific area and I think that would be beneficial to law enforcement.

We have drones now. You don't have to walk through the marsh or the tough areas, you can get a drone up. So, times have changed. Technology has really helped law enforcement. So it might not be as difficult as some may think if he wants to play Rambo and hide instead of talking to law enforcement.

KEILAR: Right now there's not cooperation, right? The police visited the Laundrie family home after Petito was reported missing. The Laundries refused to talk. They gave authorities information for their lawyer, and his family didn't tell police of his whereabouts until Friday, which keep in mind they said they hadn't seen him since Tuesday. So that gave him a few days head start.

BARKSDALE: Absolutely.

KEILAR: What questions would you have of Brian Laundrie at this point and also of his family?

BARKSDALE: That's -- I have a lot of questions, but it's all about the victim. What happened? What happened to her the last time you were with her? We know that there was a domestic incident between the two. That's on bodycam. Did another incident occur? Did you strike her? Did you cause bodily harm to her? What happened? And that's where I would really want the detectives to press.

The family -- I don't know what they're thinking. I don't know -- I mean, people do strange things out of love. And I really think that this is looking -- it looks pretty bad even from someone who was not law enforcement to say, this is a cover up. He is not taking some sabbatical. He's on the run and the family is complicit in this.

I think that myself and many others feel this way. So it's something that is disturbing and I really just want this to be concluded as soon as possible.

KEILAR: Yes. And certainly her family wants that. They want some kind of closure here. Anthony, I want to thank you.


KEILAR: No, it's horrific. You know, we've heard that from her dad. Anthony Barksdale, thank you so much.

Breaking this morning, President Biden's entire $3.5 trillion spending plan is in jeopardy this morning. We'll go live to Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: And triumph for "Ted Lasso," the show that is perfect for this moment. A big winner at the Emmys last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about that? We won one.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's a wanker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, kiddo that is -- that's a man that likes to be alone with his thoughts. Makes sense? Let's give you a better view of this. Ready? Get up there, kiddo. Look at that.



BERMAN: Democrats turning to their Plans B and C in hopes of passing immigration reform after the Senate parliamentarian shot down Plan A, the ruling basically or the pathway to citizenship cannot be included as part of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

Joining us now is CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill and CNN's Arlette Saenz is with the President in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Lauren, I want to get to immigration in a second, the Senate parliamentarian said it can't be part of this budget bill and that's a huge setback for the administration. But first I just want to talk about everything that's happening up there, nothing of which seems to be going in the direction that the Biden administration and Democratic leadership wants.

I mean, AXIOS is reporting, Lauren that Joe Manchin now says he wants to wait until 2022 to pass the budget plan, which I know for Democrats might seem like never. So, is there a plan to get this done?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Jim, I think that this is a critical week, John, and I think one of the things to keep in mind up here on Capitol Hill is that Democrats are going to come back into town today, they're going to have some meetings together. And hopefully, at least from Democratic leaders' perspective, they're going to be able to find a path forward.

But there are really two moving parts here. The first piece of this is that infrastructure bill that the Senate already passed, and we are still waiting for the House of Representatives to pass. The deadline for that, given by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is September 27th. That is a key date that she agreed with moderates would be the time that she would bring that bill to the floor.

But meanwhile progressives are arguing that they are not going to vote for that proposal unless the larger economic package, that $3.5 trillion package is actually finished and ready for a vote as well.

They're worried about that more moderate bill, that infrastructure bill going first, and so that's really what Democrats are struggling with right now. How do you move this forward when you have my rates in the Senate like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin who have argued behind closed doors and publicly that $3.5 trillion is too high of a price tag and that's before you get into big differences over tax policy, over what's included in the bill. Those are still issues that need to be worked out.

And right now, with just a couple of days until that September 27th deadline, it's not clear that's going to be figured out -- John.


BERMAN: Arlette, obviously, immigration reform is something that this White House and Democrats wanted in there. I'm not sure everyone was expecting it to get through reconciliation. But still just another huge speed bump, or thing that has blown up to

an extent in the Biden administration's face. Is there a new strategy that they have to get all this through?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the White House is aware they're entering another critical stretch when it comes to this massive economic proposal, and White House advisers say that they're really going to lean into and dive and dial up their case.

When it comes to talking about help for the middle class, their argument is that this should be viewed through the lens that this plan would help the middle class over the wealthy and corporations along with lowering costs when it comes to prescription drugs, the cost of education, elderly care, as well.

And so this is something that we're expecting advisers to really push over the course of this next week, as there are so many issues relating to this massive economic plan that still needs to be ironed out.

You heard Lauren talk about some of those setbacks that they've seen when it comes to immigration, the White House said that they were deeply disappointed in that ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, but that they believe that people in the Senate will be working to try and present some other options to the parliamentarian.

So the White House isn't quite giving up on immigration reform just yet, but this also comes as the President is about to turn his public focus to his diplomatic agenda.

He will be traveling to New York City a bit later today, tomorrow, delivering his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly and he is going to be meeting with leaders -- world leaders throughout the course of the week, but so much of his public focus, at least is going to be on that foreign policy, diplomatic ticket items.

But this White House is also aware that they need to make a strong push, as they are hoping that he can get his economic agenda across the finish line, as you've heard some setbacks when it comes to policy, and also this intra-party divisions among Democrats.

Of course, the President had hosted Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at the White House this week, we will see if there will be any other further meetings with some of those Democrats who have been on the fence.

BERMAN: It's hard to see signs of progress with Sinema or Manchin as far as the White House is concerned based on what we're hearing this morning. But we will see over the next few days.

Arlette Saenz, Lauren Fox, thank you both very much.

KEILAR: The setback to Democrats' immigration plans is coming as the border crisis is getting worse.

The Department of Homeland Security asking for The Pentagon's help with nearly 12,000 migrants under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas and CNN's Josh Campbell is there on the ground for us.

Josh, look, I mean, these conditions that folks -- they're not supposed to be there. There are too many people in this place and they are not really able to be taken care of.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're talking about thousands of migrants. This include families, this include pregnant women and children living under the Del Rio International Bridge in squalid conditions, sleeping on the dirt next to piles of garbage, being exposed to the elements.

This is being described, Brianna, as a humanitarian crisis, not only because you have thousands of people here coming to the border trying to get into the U.S., living in these terrible conditions, but also because we're obviously still in a global pandemic and officials are really concerned about the public health aspect here where you have so many people in close proximity.

We're told by D.H.S. officials that they are working alongside the Red Cross and other aid groups to get food into this camp to help make conditions more sanitary. Nevertheless, the challenge continues.

You can see over my shoulder here, the Del Rio port of entry is now closed. This area has been flooded with State Troopers, hundreds of Federal officers and agents and as you mentioned, the Defense Department also being requested for their assistance here.

Now Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas was on CNN yesterday, speaking with our colleague, Jim Acosta. He is making it clear that if migrants here don't have a lawful purpose for being in the U.S., such as seeking asylum, they will be sent back to the places from which they came. Take a listen.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are increasing the frequency and size of the repatriation flights. We have sent a very clear message early on, in light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic that the border is not open, and people should not take the perilous journey here.

We are returning people to other countries.


CAMPBELL: Now those repatriation flights are underway. We expect that there will be more.

As far as the numbers, as of yesterday, there were just under 12,000 migrants still behind me here at this bridge. Officials say that their goal is to process 3,000 per day. At that rate, we don't expect to see a noticeable diminishment here for several days more, but certainly a crisis for Border officials here and obviously, the migrants themselves who are living in these squalid conditions here awaiting processing by the U.S. government -- Brianna.