tv CNN Global Town Hall - Coronavirus Facts and Fears CNN December 1, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PST
♪ ♪ there are beautiful ideas that remain in the dark. but with our new multi-cloud experience, you have the flexibility you need to unveil them to the world. ♪ good evening, i'm apderson cooper in new york. >> i'm dr. sanjay gupta. welcome to coronavirus facts and fears. it's our 26th since the pandemic
began. we're being seen around the world on cnn international, cnn espanol and streaming on cnn.com. >> we come to you hours after dr. anthony fauci med the announcement from the white house that the new omicron variant has been detected in this country. he joins us shortly. president biden is said to be preparing to update the nation tomorrow on his anti-covid str strategy. >> how to respond to this directly, the larger question of what to make of this new variant itself and the threat it might pose. these are all the questions. most of us just learned about this not even a week ago, just last thursday. but even in that short time, it has now been identified on six continents with cases now turning up in southern africa across europe, japan, south korea, australia, brazil, canada, and now the united states. some of that is probably simply a function of our interconnected world, but is it also something particular to this variant. >> there's a lot we still don't know, we're going to explore
that question tonight and others as well as how dangerous it might be, and how existing vaccines may be equipped to take it on. we're going to check in with our correspondents in washington and south africa where the first case was spotted. we'll be joined by the president of vaccine maker moderna and as we mentioned, dr. fauci. we'll be taking your questions as well. leave a comment on the cnn facebook page. a lot of you have sent them in in video form already. you can see some of them up on the screen. we'll get to as many as we can tonight. first, though, we want to take a look at where things stand right now. >> since january 2020, there have been more than 48 million confirmed cases of covid-19 in the united states, more than 780,000 people have died. almost 60% of the u.s. population is now fully vaccinated according to the cdc, though only about 22% of those eligible have received a booster shot. health experts say that is a
crucial step in the fight against the virus, especially now that a new mutation has emerged. the omicron variant first reported in south africa has now been detected in at least 24 countries including here in the united states. this strain has at least 50 mutations and is likely more contagious, but so far it doesn't appear any deadlier. >> we're learning more every single day, and we'll fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion. >> according to an israeli health official, early data shows indications that people who are fully vaccinated and who have had a booster shot are protected against omicron but didn't provide any details about that claim. health officials in the u.s. say it will take weeks to find out just how well the existing vaccines protect against this new strain. the ceo of moderna says he doubts the effectiveness of his vaccine is at the same level as it is with the delta variant, both moderna and pfizer say they're working on a vaccine specific to omicron just in case
it's needed. >> i doubt that the results would be that we can find ourselves, we are not protecting at all. >> the cdc is increasing surveillance on international travelers coming to the u.s., ramping up testing at some airports and may also require proof a negative covid test one day before arrival. and as we wait for the data, the message remains the same. protect yourself and others by getting the vaccine. >> if you're not vaccinated yet, start tomorrow. we have the chance here as a nation to turn this around, but it's going to take all of us. >> that's sort of setting the stage. i want to start by asking you the question, i think i've asked you pretty much the beginning of every one of these town halls where are we at this moment. >> yeah, you know, the thing is what we know is that omicron is yet another wake-up call to remind us that while we would like to be done with this pandemic, it's not quite done with us. i mean, that's the truth. the big question now is how big
of a threat is omicron really. we are told that new variants are going to continue to emerge, the more that the virus spreads and evolves in our bodies, the more mutations arise. there have been thousands of variants over the last two years, and most have not become variants of concern or of interest, but omicron has raised red flags because of the dozens of mutations on its spike protein. take a look here. remember, this is the part of the virus that not only allows it to get into your cells, but also what your antibodies are actually targeting. we know that this variant is already dominant in south africa causing a rise in cases there, but we don't know if it's going to ride the same size wave as previous variants. in the middle of the screen beta was the dominant strain at one time in south are africa, but it did not take hold in the united states. remember that. we are told most people have had mild illness, but at the same time hospitalizations are rising in quatang province.
the hope is that our current vaccines along with boosters are still able to protect us and early signals from south africa and israel do paint an optimistic picture. but at the same time, what we know is that not enough people have access or have yet received the vaccine. just think, the last time we were standing here was march 2020 standing on this particular stage. since then we not only have a vaccine, we know that high filtration masks like this o one -- i know you have yours as well, good ventilation, frequent testing can keep covid at bay. we have the tools to control the pandemic. now we just got to figure out if we have the will. >> i want to bring in cnn's kaitlan collins at the white house and what she's learning about the president's strategy. the president said the administration is going to fight the variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion. so with the first confirmed case now in california, you've got some behind the scenes reporting on how the white house is handling this. >> reporter: this is news that the president got today, and anderson, because he's been in
nonstop contact basically with his medical team talking about this variant since last week, when he was on his thanksgiving vacation. of course now he's been having these daily meatetings with advisers on this. so you've seen those travel restrictions go into place. we have learned that they are going to be extending the mask mandate, the one that of course applies when you're on a plane or on a train or on a bus until march. that is something that was supposed to expire in mid-january, and now they are going to make the decision to go ahead and extend that. and anderson, overall they're taking these steps to try to respond to this variant. really the struggle is they still don't know a lot about it. part of those meetings the president is having with his team, he's asking for data. he's asking for the time line of how long it's going to take until we know more about this. that's what's going to be key for this white house. so they're developing contingency plans, talking to vaccine makers about maybe do we need an omicron specific kind of booster. they're not there yet, of course, but they all are already having those conversations in case they need to have them. >> we're also expecting to hear
from the president during a speech he's going to give at the national institutes of health on thursday. what more can you tell us about that? >> i think the setting of this speech tomorrow speaks volumes because the last time the president visited nih to give a spe speech was three weeks into his presidency. that was a time when he was going and the scientists there were walking him through of course the science they've looked at when it came to vaccines. vaccines still weren't widely available at that time. they were talking about preparing for variants in case they started popping up throughout the united states. and now the president is going to be visiting nih once again, just a short drive from the white house now that this omicron variant has been found in the united states, and so he will lay out a few concrete steps there. we've talked about tightening those testing requirements for international travelers, extending the mask mandate. overall they're going to try to push this messaging about boosters. that's about the extent they can go to right now. they say there are 100 million people in the united states who are eligible for a booster right now they're going to continue to
hammer that message home until they learn more. >> we want to go to cnn's david mckenzie in johannesburg, south africa. what are the latest case numbers there and how many are linked to the new variant? >> reporter: anderson, the numbers are surging in the province i'm sitting in right now. they are seeing very significant rises in cases, and hospitalizations are going up. in terms of whether omicron is dominating, well, the short answer is yes. it appears to be. more than 3/4 of cases in this part of south africa appear to be the variant which shows that it possible is more transmissible. at this stage, though, hospital cases are rising. it raises anecdotal evidence that there is an association with mild and moderate disease and the good news is for those who have availability of vaccines is that these clinicians are saying, and herbson, that vaccines do appear to have an effect of stopping
severe disease of this variant. >> david, you also visited the lab that first detected this omicron variant. i'm curious, what did you learn there? >> sanjay, it's fascinating the detective work that went into actually discovering this. there's a lab that's actually very close to where i'm sitting right now. they started seeing an anomaly in the tests, in the pcr tests many of us have had to do during this pandemic. it reminded them of the alpha variant you were describing just a short time ago, and because that kind of started showing more frequently and positive tests were rising, they sequenced those tests. they saw this virus, this variant with so many mutations and they raised the flag to the national authorities. soon after that, of course, they announced it to the world. but one thing worth mentioning is they started seeing this anomaly very early in november, possibly even late october. so once these restrictions and travel bans came in, it's likely the variant, they say, was
circulating e pretty widely. >> joining us right now, someone we've bomb baarded with questio dr. anthony fauci and president biden's chief medical adviser. good evening. we learned today so the first person to test positive for the omicron variant in the u.s. was fully vaccinated with the moderna vaccine, hadn't received a booster dose. a lot of folks out there are concerned about what this all could mean. what is your message tonight? do we know enough yet about omicron to be specific about really anything? >> no, actually, anderson, we don't. i mean, having a single person who had what would be considered a breakthrough infection because the person was fully vaccinated doesn't really tell you much at all because we have breakthrough infections with delta where people who have been vaccinated, fully vaccinated very often more often than not they have mild illness. they don't go on to any serious consequence. from what we've heard from our colleagues at ucsf in san
francisco that this person had mild symptoms and is actually improving. but it's only a single person, anderson, so you really can't make a broad general statement or an extrapolation for what would go on with unvaccinated people or people who were boosted, so there's a lot still to be learned and hopefully over the ensuing weeks or maybe a few weeks, two to three weeks, we'll get a lot more information. mostly from our south african colleagues who have been really, really good in keeping us up to date on what's going on and being very transparent with us. >> you really think in two or tree weeks we'll have more information from south africa that can give us a better sense? >> yeah, well, one of the things that's going to happen in the next couple of weeks, anderson is that we're going to get the virus, which we have, and you grow the virus or you make what's called a pseudo virus which is a form of virus you can work with in the test tube very easily. then we're going to get sera
from people who have recovered from covid as well as individuals who have been vaccinated and who have developed different types of antibodies to block the virus, and we'll see if, in fact, this particular virus is still sensitive to the antibodies that were induced by the vaccines that we're using. we expect -- and i wouldn't be surprised -- if the level of protection diminishes somewhat given the p constellations of mutations that we would see that would suggest immune evasion there. you never know until you test it in an in vetoitro or test tube situation, and then you get into real world data of what happens when a vaccinated person or a boosted person comes into contact and gets infected. these are all things that are unknown. we'll get the laboratory data in a couple of weeks, but we'll have to get the experience from our south african colleagues about what the real clinical effect is going to be. >> dr. fauci, good evening. you just heard kaitlan collins
report talking about the fact that the president is going to be laying out a strategy on how to fight covid this winter. now, as his chief medical adviser, i'm curious what are you telling him the most important thing to stress is to the country and what, if any, policy changes do you think should be implemented? kaitlyn, for example, mentioned the possibility of mask mandates now on public transportation as someth something that's being considered. >> well, sanjay, as you know, i'm not going to get ahead of the president and the speech that he's going to give at our place at the nih tomorrow. we're looking forward to that, but you know, in the very, very constant interactions that i and the medical team have had with him over the last few days, what we're emphasizing and he's accepting very readily, the kinds of things that we're talking about, of making sure that the unvaccinated get vaccinated and that people who are fully vaccinated get their boosters as quickly as they possibly can, if they are eligible because the question arises you jump ahead of
yourself and you say, well, is there going to be a variant specific boost, and if so should i wait to get that boost, and the answer is no. if you are eligible, namely if you've had the moderna or the pfizer and you're six months following your primary regimen of vaccination or your two months following j&j, don't wait. get that extra boost now because we know when you do that the level of antibodies, as i think you already mentioned on the show, sanjay, the level of antibodies that rise and go up following a boost is much, much higher than the peak level that you get after your second dose of a two-dose vaccine. that's what you really want to see because we know from our experience with delta that even though the vaccine is not directed specifically at delta, it's directed against the inses tral strain, yet when you get
your antibodies high enough, you're protected from delta. that's what we're hoping we see with the omicron, when you get your levels high enough it will spill over and you'll get protection against the variant. >> let's talk about immunity and antibodies. you may remember in september we asked you about whether we should take into account the impact of natural or infection acquired immunity when it comes to vaccination status. this continues to be an important topic for many people. take a listen to what you said back there on ac 360. >> it is conceivable that you got infected, you're protected, but you may not be protected for an indefinite period of time. i think that is something that we need to sit down and discuss seriously. >> so that was, you know, a couple months ago now, dr. dr. fauci. where do we stand on the idea of the protection that you get from having had covid. >> well, there's no doubt, sanjay that if you are infected with sars-cov-2 and you
recorecover that you're going to have a significant degree of protection. what we don't know because it hasn't been studied as precisely as the post-vaccination immunological response, that we don't know what the durability of it is, what the level of it is. people who push back who say, wait a minute, are you saying that you don't get protection. no, you get a considerable degree of protection from getting infected and recovered, but the thing that we do know that we're very sure of that if you take an infected person who's recovered and then you vaccinate that person, that's the highest level of protection both t cells, antibody, and all the immune parameters. it gets way, way higher than anything else. that's the reason why the cdc continues to recommend that if you have been infected that you subsequently get vaccinated for the optimal protection. >> there's obviously, you know, concern about omicron in the last few days, but the delta variant is still a very serious
concern here in the united states. michigan reporting at least nine hospitals at 100% patient capacity. we've got the cold winter months now, still ahead of us. how concerned are you about what is to come? >> i'm glad you brought that up, and anderson. we don't want people because they hear of a single case of a new variant that just has now arrived in the united states as well as what's going on in south africa or in other countries throughout the world to take our eye off the ball of the problem that we are facing right now. we are entering into a much colder season. we still have 99.9% of the i isolates are delta. we know what we can do with delta. we have it within our capability to block it, by getting the people who are unvaccinated vaccinated, and we still have about 60 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated and to get those people who are already
primarily vaccinated, fully vaccinated to get them when they're eligible to get their booster for the reasons that i just said. and then we have other things, and you mentioned them just a bit ago. you know, wearing proper mavsks in an indoor congregate setting. getting the children vaccinated. that's really very important. we have 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11, who if we get them vaccinated, we'll protect them for their own health as well as to prevent the further spread in the community. so there are a lot of things that we can do now with what we're dealing with now, and what we're dealing with now is delta. >> dr. fauci, i want to get one audience question in before we go to the break. we're going to have plenty more after. shawn from virginia has a question about traveling for the holidays. let's watch. >> my family's planning on traveling to europe this christmas, we're all vaccinated including our boosters except for my son who's 13. he's not eligible yet for his booster. i'm wondering if it's safe to
travel. i'm also a little nervous about last minute travel restrictions. should i be? >> i think a lot of people are curious about this, dr. fauci. i know you were planning on getting together with your family this holiday season fully vaccinated without masks. does omicron change your thinking on this? what should other people be thinking? >> no, again, thanks for the question, sanjay because i'm getting it asked a lot myself. i would not do anything different than we have been recommending all along despite the fact that we have a case, and we likely will see more cases of omicron as the weeks and the days go by. i said it a little bit ago that i wouldn't be surprised if we see a first case san. we just have a problem that's identifiable now, and just as i said, and i'll say it again, if you have a vaccinated situation, your family's vaccinated, enjoy the holidays, indoor with your family in a family setting. many of us will have to travel during the holidays.
what you do when you travel, you take care. travel always increases somewhat the risk of getting infected, but if you wear a mask, particularly when you're in an airport in the congregate setting you have to wear a mask when you get on the plane, and if you can, just get vaccinated as soon as you can, and right now is the time to get boosted. the children also, now is the time to get the 5 and 11-year-olds vaccinated so as we get into those winter months and we approach the holidays, they'll at least be partially vaccinated. >> we're going to take a quick break, dr. fauci is sticking around to answer more of your questions. in light of what dr. fauci said about vaccines, the president of moderna on his expectations of how well his company's vaccine may handle the new variant and how long it might take if a new formulation is needed. more on the public health prevention front and what additional steps might be needed even as covid fatigue already sets in for all of us. former baltimore health
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we are back talking with dr. anthony fauci taking your questions throughout the night. you'll see them scrolling on the social media wall. we've got a lot of questions to get to. fifrl, i just quickly want to ask you about a report in the news involving the former president, the guardian newspaper is reporting in his new book, mark meadows writes the president had first a positive covid test and then a negative test before the first presidential debate with joe biden in september of 2020. he had met with gold star families after the first positive test, went to the debate. at the time, did you know anything about that? >> no, anderson, i did not. i had no knowledge of what his test positivity or negativity was at all. i just was not -- i was not in that loop at all. >> okay. >> let's get to some more viewer questions, dr. fauci. this is an interesting one from liam in south africa sent in this video. take a listen.
>> as a proud south african i've watched in recent days as the world has shut its doors to my country. south africa has undoubtedly been punished for its discovery of the omicron variants which raises an important question. why would countries report future variants if they are simply slapped with discriminatory travel bans? these travel bans have certainly set a treacherous precedent. >> do you -- is there any merit, do you think, dr. fauci, to liam's concerns here? >> you know, i think there is some merit to that. we felt, at least i felt, and i know several of the members of the team felt really badly about that because the south africans have been extremely transparent and collegial in getting information to us. it was a very difficult choice to make because we had no idea what was going on when you saw what was coming out, so we felt it was better to be safe than sorry. and we really are sensitive to
and appreciate what the situation is, particularly as reflected by the comments that you just showed on the screen. i would hope that we'd get enough information soon that we could pull back on that as req quickly as possible because you don't want individual countries to feel that when they are honest and transparent that there are negative consequences for them. so i do really feel badly about that. >> this next question came in via twitter with o our #cnntownhall. it's one of the questions on the social media wall reads, will we have to be vaccinated yearly or fr frequently like the flu. i know the ceo of pfizer is predicting yearly shots. i'm wondering what you think. >> anderson, to be honest with you, we don't know. we really don't. you could say we might have this or we might require this, but we don't know. one of the things i'm very interested in my colleagues, is that when you get a boost, the booster shot for example with an
mrna or a pfizer, do you not only elevate the level of antebo anta, you really get the immune response to get a much greater breadth and a much greater strength so that we maybe don't have to boost every eight months, nine months. it may be we get a durability of immunity. or maybe not, and if it is not, we'll have to deal with it depending upon how the outbreak and the global pandemic evolves. so the honest answer is we don't know what's going to be required. i hope we get a durability protection from the boost that we won't have to be chasing all the time against the new variant, but that just remains to be seen. >> dr. fauci, we've got a lot of questions on this next topic. calvin in new york sent in this question about covid tests. it reads as of now, dr. fauci says the pcr test is effective in detecting this new variant,
but does that mean the rapid test can also detect the new variant and will it render someone potentially with a false negative? what do we know about this? pcr test, i think, those are pretty -- those are the gold standard, but what about these rapid tests? >> you know, that's a great question. there are some -- and i don't know which one versus which one, but there's certainly some of the antigen tests, the rapid 15, 20 minute tests that definitely pick this up. i think what we're going to have to do is go back and make sure which ones clearly do pick it up and which ones don't. and you know when you get a rapid test, which is an antigen test, that it doesn't have the sensitivity of a pcr, but if you do it often enough, you can really make up for the relative lack of sensitivity, but for sure the tests in spaeaking to our south african colleagues, which i've been on zoom calls
over the last few days, over the weekend, the thanksgiving holiday, that they are seeing that the antigen test does pick it up. >> you know, dr. fauci, there's obviously a lot of understandable emphasis on vaccines and boosters, but you know, we've been talking about testing sensince the beginning this pandemic as well. there's about a million, million and a half tests being done every day. maybe we should be doing tens of millions of tests a day to really get clear vision on what's happening. why are we still not doing, you know, that number of tests in this country. >> well, sanjay, you and i have had this conversation before and i've told you i am one and very bullish about flooding the system with tests, and that's what we recommended and that's what's going to happen and is already starting to happen. we're billions of dollars are being invested to allow us to have anywhere from 200 million to 500 million tests a month. i mean, that's, i think, going to fwgive us what we need to be
able to do what i said about -- i used the terminology flooding the system with tests. anybody can get a test as easily as you possibly can imagine. >> dan sent me this question about the omicron variant, let's watch. >> anecdotal evidence that the omicron variant is less severe than the delta variant. if omicron becomes the dominant strain in the united states, wouldn't its emergence actually be a good thing? wouldn't the milder version of covid theoretically give some immunity against the more severe strains in the unvaccinated public. dr. fauci, what about that? >> well, first of all, the idea that the omicron is less severe is an assumption for which we don't really have any data, so we really better be careful. the caller, who just made that statement is correct, is that there has been anecdotal information that some of the
physicians, private physicians and others who see patients in south africa are saying it's their impression that it is a less severe disease, but there are a lot of confounding issues there, anderson, because the original outbreak was seen in a particular section and a particular area among younger individuals in johannesburg and in other places in south africa. so we really better not assume that, and it's always dangerous to say let's get one infection really, really be spread to that it could protect you against another. you don't want to play around with sars-cov-2. it's a formidable foe, so i would stay away from that, even though it's a reasonable question that that person just brought up. >> and we've got another question, steve in seattle sent in this video asking about precautions fully vaccinated people should take. let's watch. >> everyone's been talking about what to do if you're
unvaccinated or without a booster, but what should someone who has all three shots do to protect themselves against the omicron variant? >> dr. fauci. >> good question. yeah, good question. we're asking people to go get booster shots and the question that was just asked is very relevant. what you do is exactly what we were saying, and that is to be prudent and careful, and one of the things that's very clear is that if you have to be in an indoor congregate setting in which you're unsure of what the vaccination status is of the people around you, wear a mask. also, when you're in indoor settings, try and go to a place where's there's good ventilation. try, and i know it's tough as we get into the colder months, but try to do things outdoors more frequently than just indoors. but it's just the common sense prudent trying to avoid a risky situation. but you've already taken a major
step in protecting yourself by the fact that you have gotten vaccinated and you have gotten boosted. that's a real big step towards protecting yourself. >> dr. fauci, we just got a social media question from a viewer named andrew. we didn't have time to put it on the screen. andrew, the question was at what point do you -- would you consider the pandemic over? >> well, again, that's a question that has been asked very, very frequently, and the way i explain it is that if you look at the different phases, you have the pandemic phase, the deceleration or diminution of infection. then you have control, you have elimination, and you have eradication. i don't think there's a chance we're going to eradicate this virus because it's too widespread, and it transmits too easily. then there's the issue of are you going to eliminate it. the way we've eliminated polio and measles through vaccination.
we might, i think, that's pretty aspirational to do that. what i believe we can do is we can get a level of control where the dynamics of the virus circulating in the population is so low that it really is not a threat anymore. it's not something which dominates decisions of what you're going to do and where you're going to go. if we get the level that that low that you will protect not only people who are not vaccinated and you would hope that the overwhelming proportion of people would be vaccinated, but a low level of dynamics of virus in the community is much, much better and safer for the vaccinated people because you get much less breakthrough infections if the virus doesn't have a lot of -- >> how do you get to that point if not enough people are vaccinated? >> well, we just got to get them vaccinated. that's the point. i mean, this idea about people not wanting to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons, ideological, political, or what
have you, we've got to get the country to appreciate that we are dealing with a common enemy that's the virus, and the only thing we need to do is to join forces against that common enemy, and we have a fantastic tool against that common enemy, and that's vaccine. so we've really got to keep trying and get people to appreciate that it's for their own safety, for that of their family but also for their communal responsibility to get us out of this terrible situation of a pandemic that we are in. >> dr. fauci, appreciate your time. thank you. up next, the president of moderna dr. steven hogue will join us, the company's ceo caused quite a stir when he predicted the current covid vaccines likely won't work as well against omicron. we'll find out what dr. hogue thinks, and dr. leana wen will join us as well when our cnn global town hall continues.
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we'll get some of those questions in a minute. moderna's ceo made headlines when he "the financial times" existing covid vaccines are likely to be less effective. >> his comments triggered a drop in financial markets, raised the anxiety of an already worried pluc public, were they premature. joining us so provide some clarity is the president of moderna, dr. steven hogue. >> the ceo also said all the scientists i've talked to this is not going to be good. as the person who leads moderna's scientific, what are you seeing that led to such a bleak assessment? >> some of the word choice may not have been optimal, but i think what stefan was trying to say was consistent with really what you heard tony say a moment ago, and what we feel, which is it seems likely that the omicron variant is going to make a dent in our vaccine efficacy. in fact, in all vaccine efficacy. the things that lead us to believe that are our prior
experiences, including with the delta variant this summer, which i think we all saw had an impact on vaccine efficacy and ultimately necessitated, we think, the additional boosters that we're giving this fall in many parts of the world. the omicron variant looks a lot like delta and the variant that came before it, beta, and the combination of mutations that have been brought together there we think are going to increase the possibility of immune escape. now, the one thing we don't know for sure is how big is that dent, how big is that decrease in vaccine efficacy? our hope, at least in moderna, is that we're going to continue to see the highest efficacy overall and continue to see the boosters push that even higher and so the optimist in me would say that maybe we find out over the coming few weeks as we generate more data in the real world, that the vaccines actually hold up quite well. this is more like delta and it's a situation where we already have the tools we need to fight. >> you know, there's been a lot of discussion about boosters, every time a new variant comes
out there's a new discussion about a variant specific booster. i think there was delta boosters and beta boosters that were trialed even turned out not to be necessary. is it your impression this is how things are going to be going forward? and also, as you think about that, is there a downside to giving regular boosters, i mean, concerns about people creating autoimmunity, for example? >> so i think it's just too early to say, as tony said a moment ago, about whether or not we're going to need boosters permanently on a regular basis. what is clear right now is we're in the throws of a pandemic, and the virus continues to mutate and evolve and breakthrough some of our defenses, whether it's vaccine induced or previous infection induced, and so in the face of all that force of infection, that much virus circulating, we do believe it's important that we continue to boost populations because we've seen the damage that can be wrought when you see break
through infectioni s, hospita hospitalizations, and even breakthrough deaths. what we really believe at moderna is we need to continue to advance the best possible booster candidates for public health officials like dr. fauci to have in their hands to deploy if they feel they're necessary. we do hope that at some point, this slows down, that at some point we get through this pandemic, the virus stops mutating, stops circulating as aggressively as it is right now. at that point it's possible the boosters only become something that's necessary for high ruisk populations, for instance, the elderly. >> is there a threshold where you would say that's a trigger for a booster? you hear about the vaccines being good to prevent serious illness. would you boost to just prevent infections or would it only be to prevent illness? >> well, from our perspective, the vaccines are designed to prevent illness, whether it's mild or severe, and obviously as long as we're holding up against
hospitalization severeness and death, most of the good has been delivered, but the question about whether or not people would want to choose to protect themselves against mild covid and some of the disruption associated with that is really one for those individuals that are doctors and really public health officials. we're going to continue to make sure the boosters are capable of doing that, but i can see how over time the need to prevent milder symptoms is and disease might actually become less important. >> if it's true that the current vaccines including yours offer a decent -- if it turns out they offer a decent amount of protection against this variant, is that a sign that they could handle future variants that have significant mutations as well? >> that's the hope. i think this particular omicron variant is the first one that really causes us significant concern because of the number of mutations it has, but a lot of this is just we don't have data yet, so the concern is more anticipatory. we just don't know what to think about this new variant. but if you look at the history of the vaccines and the moderna
vaccine for sure but some of the others have actually held up well. we have the beta variant, good efficacy against that gamma variant and delta variant we all lived through this summer. there is some hope if we get through the omicron variant, we see good efficacy in the coming weeks and months that actually the original vaccines that we've all been benefitting from may hold up well and might be all we need in the long run. we'll just need data to tell us. >> i really appreciate your time. thank you. >> reminder in the wall on our set, you'll see our social media scroll that shows the questions people are asking. you can tweet us your questions with the #cnntownhall. you can also leave a comment on the cnn facebook page. back with us now sanjay and joining us as well, cnn medical analyst, dr. leana wen. >> great to see you. >> i don't think i've seen you in person -- >> i don't know, ever. >> two years. >> since march 2020. since before my daughter and your son were born. >> see the bottom half of our bodies now, right? >> so let's move on to some more
viewer questions. manuel in dallas sent in this video. let's take a look. >> does the covid-19 virus have a state of evolution or a chief evo evolving. >> this is an interesting question, right? this idea that there is an optimal fitness to these viruses, and steven hogue was just talking about that to some extent. ultimately there seems to be this push and pull. it doesn't always happen but as it becomes more transmissible it also loses some of its punch and we get into this sort of steady state. in some ways that's kind of what happened with the flu. the descendants even of the 1918 flu still exist today, and we've sort of accepted that steady state. that may happen with this as well. >> but is that the same as the virus basically weakening over time? >> yeah, i mean, it weakens in addition to the fact that we get more global immunity, hopefully through vaccines primarily, but you know, through infection acquired immunity as well, in combination that immunity and a weakened -- a more weak virus
gets us to that steady state potentially. >> this is a question for you that came in via facebook with our #cnntownhall. one of the questions you have scrolling up there on the social media wall. if we know it's already spread well beyond their borders what's the point of closing boardes. can we just admit this is an endemic and move on. >> it's a question that a lot of people are asking. i don't think it's one that medical and public health experts necessarily agree on. you know, if we had said that the point of travel restrictions is to stop the spread of covid altogether, stop the spread of omic omicron altogether, it's not going to work. but what president biden and dr. fauci have said, the point is to slow down the spread and buy us time. >> you actually support the idea of travel restriction? >> i do because i like this idea of buying us time. ideally we get to the point where there are only a handful of cases of omicron in the u.s. for time being, and so we're able to identify every quarantine the individuals who are exposed. we're able to isolate those individuals, and that buys us time to get people vaccinated,
get people boosters already while we're finding out more information. it's not saying forever let's do the travel restrictions, and i actually do hope the biden administration will remove the restrictions as soon as they don't seem necessary anymore. >> because they didn't start, from what we know, we believe we know at this point, this omicron didn't actually start in south africa. >> right. >> it was just noticed there first. >> that's right. and it seems like it's punishing the researchers and clinicians in south africa who are doing great science and being transparent. i think we should be rewarring them and right now they're not feeling that way. >> we should be doing more testing. we're doing 1.5 million tests a day. you heard dr. fauci say we could get to 500 million a month potentially. >> and why will that make a difference? >> we're missing a lot of people. that was the thing about this virus is people could be totally asymptomatic, have no symptoms, have no knowledge that they're carrying it and still spread it. >> does that help us learn about the virus itself, or is that just to get an accurate sense of how widespread the virus is? >> well, it gives you a sense of
how widespread the virus, but then you can start to isolate. people isolate and stop spreading it so much. and that starts to feel like you're starting to get your hands around this, some control. >> so it's not really data. it's more for informing people you are covid. please don't pass it along. >> like with omicron, it would help with that, but this would be in terms of controlling it. we have not done enough testing here. >> needing more testing from the get-go. remember, the former president famously would say the more you test, the more positive cases you get. >> and we took a huge lull in testing over the summer. people said this is essentially gone, and vaccinated people were encouraged to not to even bother testing. that was probably a mistake. >> a question from leslie in salt lake city. let's watch. >> have we been sequencing and tracking variants here and sharing the results with the world like south africa has been? is it possible we weren't even looking for it here and that is why we appear to have little to
no cases? >> this is kind of getting to the same point. we are sequencing a lot more. at one point they were sequencing i think some 8,000 tests a week. and now it's closer to 80,000 tests a week. so it's tenfold higher. the problem still, though, i think is the denominator of how many tests we are actually doing. this 1.5 million tests per day is not nearly a enough in a country of 300 million people when you're in the middle of a pandemic. so for the tests that we do have and the positives that are come:00 back, we're probably sequencing enough. they've shared about two million of these sequences with these global data banks. but we got to -- the fundamental problem still is that there is a lot of people out there who are right now carrying this virus in their bodies. they have no idea that they are, and they're continuing to spread it. that just perpetuates the pandemic. >> i saw comments by the head of the w.h.o. today, maybe it was today saying essentially, look, unless the world is vaccinated, unless we get better
distribution of vaccines out to people, this is just going continue. we are really -- it is that cliche. we're all in this together. with the pandemic, you actually. >> that's right. and i think we have to recognize, as we have from the very beginning, that we are in this together and that unless we're able to get vaccines to the world. but here is the key. it's not just getting vaccines supply to the world. one of the major issues including south africa in southern africa countries is they have low vaccine rates, but it's not because of vaccine supply. south africa has been giving back the vaccines that they received. and the reason is that they're having vaccine hesitancy due to lots of disinformation and misinformation just as we do here in the u.s. too. >> everywhere in the world. >> this last question is a video from brittany in chicago. let's take a look. >> is it still safe to gather inside with family and friends if everyone is vaccinated? >> that's a good question. i'll also extend that because i'm curious. would you go to a gym where supposedly everyone is
vaccinated to go, but would you wear a mask? >> well, i'll say this. omicron itself hasn't really changed that calculus for people, as in just because there is this one case of omicron in the u.s., i don't think that should change our behavior other than to say go get vaccinate and go get boosted. but i think what people really want to know is what's safe for me 20 do right now. and there is no clear answer because there is no such thing as 100% safe or 100% risk. everybody needs to weigh their own risks for themselves. and so the safest thing to do is everybody around you is fully vaccinated and ideally also boosted. that's going to be the safest atmosphere. beyond that, if you are someone who is vulnerable with chronic medical illnesses, immunosuppressed or if you live at home with someone vulnerable or unvaccinated younger children you might decide to take additional precautions, including maybe not going to crowded gyms for the time being, or if you're going to the gym, wear a mask or go during off times when there aren't going to be people around you. and just take those additional precautions. and if you're going to do any form of international traveling, i would highly urge for people
to self-quarantine once they come back and get a test three days to five days after they get back just for that additional peace of mind too. >> if you have small children at home, you do need to take extra precautions that other people might not need. >> you got to put a bubble around them essentially. in some ways, that's the philosophical element of herd immunity. you want vaccinated people around them. as leanna said, if you have someone who is vulnerable as well. you heard dr. fauci say he is planning on enjoying the holidays with his vaccinated family and friends, no masks inside. he is 80 years old. he is somebody who would be considered vulnerable. >> he is 80 years old? >> he is 80 years old. >> it's incredible, right? >> i look ravaged by time. >> i look tired compared to him. he never sleeps either. >> good lord. dr. leana wen, sanjay, thank you so much as always. and thanks to dr. anthony fauci, stephen hoge and everyone who wrote in with their questions. if you didn't get your question answered, the conversation continues at
cnn.com/coronavirusanswers. news continues with don lemon and "don lemon tonight" after this break. superpowers from a spider bite? i could use some help showing the world how liberty mutual customizes their car insurance so they only pay for what they need. (gasps) ♪ did it work? only pay for what you need ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ spider-man no way home in theaters december 17th ♪ it wasn't me by shaggy ♪ you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your discover card. ♪ ♪ when the chapstick goes on. it's on.
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hello, everyone. this is "don lemon tonight." thank you for joining us. we have been watching the cnn global town hall coronavirus facts and fears, and we've got a lot more coming on the omicron variant, now detected in this country. but this is -- boy has this been a momentous day in washington. a day when the supreme court heard arguments in the case that could roll back the right americans have had for nearly 50 years. the court seems ready to green light a mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks with no exception for rape or incest. it's one of several laws passed in multiple states intended to get the supreme court to hear a direct challenge to roe v. wade. the president of the united states, joe biden, reaffirming his support for roe today. >> what is your reaction to the supreme court heard the abortion today that justices signaled they're on the verge of major changes to
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