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tv   Washington Journal Dr. Richard Besser  CSPAN  August 19, 2021 10:03am-10:35am EDT

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buckeye broadband supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. " dr. richard besser, former acting director of the cdc, joining us this morning in the wake of several major covid announcements. first, your reaction to the booster shot announcement and your assessment of the data behind that announcement on the effectiveness of the mrna vaccines and whether they are waning over time? guest: it is great to be here. there is a lot of covid news. what we heard yesterday is the administration is planning to roll out boosters for everyone
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in america who received one of the mrna vaccines -- the moderna and the pfizer vaccine. they are making those plans due to data from the u.s. and overseas. the studies that were released here in the mmwr, a publication the cdc puts out, shows a couple things. on the good news front, the study shows the vaccines remain extremely effective at preventing hospitalization, which is really what we designed the vaccine to do, to prevent severe infection, hospitalization and death. that has held up really well. what some of the study showed, however, is the protection against overall infection goes down. it is not clear from these studies whether it goes down because of a dropping level of protecting factors over time, or because of the new variant that
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is now -- it accounts for more than 90%, the delta variant. much more contagious. what is clear from these studies another trends around the world is the vaccines are not as good as preventing overall infection. data from israel do suggest that over time, vaccines become less effective in preventing severe infection. it has not been seen here, but the administration is planning because of concerns we likely would see an increased risk of severe infection. there are a couple things that have to take place before this would roll out. these are really important. they are something i look to whenever there is a change. the fda has to review the company data from madera and pfizer to review if the vaccines
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are safe and effective for a third dose. and then the advisory committee for amino station practices -- who did they recommend get these vaccines and when? that is an important piece. they could agree with the assessment that everyone in america should get a third dose, or they could look at it and say, only high-risk individuals, people in certain settings. i will look at their conversation to help guide how i think about this rollout. host: not everyone believes boosters are the right move in the united states. i want your reaction to the world health organization's reaction to the news. boosters will create a divide between the haves and the have nots.
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the who's emergency chief even more poignant, saying the booster plan is like giving out extra lifejackets to people who already have lifejackets while leaving others to drown without a life jacket. guest: i know dr. ryan and i think this is a valid critique. globally, more than 80% of vaccines have gone to wealthy nations. this is morally unacceptable. it is also unacceptable from a self interest perspective in the u.s., because as the virus continues to circulate widely across the globe, there are more opportunities for new variants to arise. whenever a virus multiplies, replicates, there are mistakes made. when those mistakes lead to a strain that can now invade yemen system, it can spread -- the
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immune system, it can spread. there is always a chance there could be a new variant the vaccines are not effective against. i think our government has a responsibility to look at protection of american citizens, people who live in america, but the united states also has a moral responsibility as a world leader, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, should do a lot more to get vaccines to other countries. that will need to include ramping up production, pushing hard for technology transfer so the proprietary information that these companies have can be shared with other manufacturing facilities around the globe to increase production. it is absolutely wrong that the distribution of vaccines globally is so skewed toward
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wealthy nations. host: the numbers if viewers want to join the conversation with dr. richard besser, (202) 748-8000 if you are vaccinated. if you are not vaccinated, (202) 748-8001. the former acting director of the cdc. guest: the robert wood johnson foundation, we are the addition's largest philanthropy focused on improving health care in the united states. our foundation was founded with dollars that came from the johnson family, which built johnson & johnson, and we own stock in the company johnson & johnson. host: the booster shots we have been talking about for the pfizer and moderna vaccine's, what happens with johnson & johnson vaccinated individuals? guest: the administration is saying we need to wait on that.
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we need to see data on two doses of the j&j vaccine. once they have that data, the fda will look at that data and likely recommend a booster shot for people who received the j&j vaccine. the timeframe of eight months after the final dose, or for the j&j vaccine it would be one dose, that would mean there would not need to be any conversation or decision around the j&j vaccine until november. that vaccine was not introduced until march. host: in other news, another announcement yesterday on the mandate front, president biden announcing vaccine mandates for those who work in nursing home facilities. here is the president from yesterday. [video clip] pres. biden: if you work in a nursing home and serve people on medicare or medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated.
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more than 130,000 residents in nursing homes have sadly over the period of this virus passed away. at the same time, vaccination rates among nursing home staff trail the rest of the country. the study show highly vaccinated nursing home staff is associated with at least 30% less covid-19 cases among long-term care residents. this announcement, i am using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care cost to reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors. these steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm's way. host: the president yesterday afternoon. dr. besser, a good idea? guest: i think it is a great idea. one thing that has concerned me is the low rate of vaccination among those who work in
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long-term care facilities. i am a supporter of mandates. we think about vaccination as a personal decision. but there is a famous phrase that one's freedom or liberty ends at the end of one's nose. if the decision to not get vaccinated puts others at risk, i think there is a reason for mandates to rectify that. nursing home residents are at risk if those caring for them are not vaccinated. those in hospitals are at risk if those caring for them are unvaccinated. workers are at risk if those around them are not vaccinated. we are reopening our doors at the robert wood johnson foundation after labor day, but only workers who are fully
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vaccinated will be allowed to work in the building. i think that is appropriate. it is a responsibility we have. even workers who are fully vaccinated, there is no guarantee that each of them will have a high level of protection that will prevent covid infection. these are some of the best vaccines we have, but even with that, if you are talking about a 95% vaccine effectiveness, that means 5% of people who are vaccinated could still get covid. i think this is a very smart move. there is data that has shown the number of cases in nursing homes are on the rise. whether that is due to the length of time since nursing home residents were vaccinated or the delta variant is not quite clear. it is likely nursing home residents if a booster program moves forward would be the first to get them, that would be a good thing. requiring everyone who works
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around them will save lives. host: dr. richard besser has joined us on the "washington journal" a half-dozen times since the start of the pandemic. always happy to take your calls and answer your questions. we have split the lines by vaccinated and unvaccinated. jeff is up first out of new york on the line for those who are vaccinated. go ahead. caller: thank you for all the great work you do to try to get the message out. i have a question about, basically, how we can get better equity, globally, in the vaccination process? i see that you advocate for that and i strongly agree. we don't really have the studies that would provide evidence through modeling, of course because it is a future event, how the outcomes would be if we were to distribute the vaccines
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more equally among the nations of the world. we do not have data that shows -- we could have the least possible amount of mortality in terms of distribution of the vaccines. instead, what we have is, understandably, people wanted to vaccinate their own nation if they can afford to do so. in contention without world health organization's plea to distribute the vaccine more equally. what we need is a study so people can see the choice they make produces additional mortality, if they were to veer from that, at least the models would predict that. modeling predictions is what we use in our own country when make these kinds of decisions about vaccination. host: let's take that one because it is a complicated one. dr. besser. guest: i would encourage you to look at the who website and
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covax, an organization focused on global -- if you think about the decision analysis we make in the united states, that we want to protect first those at the highest risk of dying from covid. when vaccines were rolled out, they went to people who were elderly, people in nursing homes, with underlying medical conditions and put them at risk. we also had in that group frontline health care workers. we don't need fancy modeling studies to tell us the fact that there are thousands and thousands of frontline health care workers, doctors, nurses, in countries all over the globe that have no access whatsoever to a vaccine, that that is wrong. we do not need to wait on the for that and we need to global
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community to do more. if you think about it, these vaccines, a lot of them were developed with federal dollars. the research that went into the technology for mrna vaccines was developed with federal dollars. a lot of this work came out of the national institutes of health, which is our tax dollars. given that, we should have a say in how these vaccines are made available to other countries. the idea that some of these vaccines are manufactured in lower income countries, but then are shipped from those countries to wealthy nations is absolutely wrong. host: to our friend to the north in montreal, canada, this is richard calling in on the line of those unvaccinated. good morning. caller: good morning. i am hearing from a lot of
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nurses in the united states that covid patients in hospitals are being denied the right to try. patients are hearing from great doctors that hydroxychloroquine help. these patients wonder why they are being denied the right to try. if patients do not want to go on ventilators, if they want hydroxychloroquine to try, they should be allowed to try. i want to know what the doctors are against that. thank you. guest: richard, i think it is important as new treatments are identified, or potential treatments are identified, they are quickly assessed in clinical trials in controlled settings to know whether or not they work. that was the case for hydroxychloroquine and it was
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shown to not be effective, especially early on in the health crisis, where it is not known what will work. it is very important there is an openness to learn. it is important the learning -- when something is found not to be effective, the government, the clinical organizations, the health care system does not allow a foster to perpetuate so people think there is a magic bullet out there. the most important thing we can do to get this pandemic under control is to listen to those people who have not been vaccinated so far, try to address their concerns so they can make a decision. if we were able to vaccinate the entire globe, this would go away. there is a significant number of people still have concerns who have not assigned to get vaccinated, and there are still communities where there are
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challenges to get vaccines. largely black and brown communities, people with disabilities who are homebound and challenged to get vaccines. it is important that if a booster program moves forward, it does not get in the way of continuing to work hard to encourage people who have not been vaccinated at all to get vaccinated. one of the things that gives me some hope is that in some of the states that haven't hit the hardest recently during the pandemic, we are seeing an increase uptake for vaccines for first-timers. people are saying i have friends and family members who are getting very sick from this virus, i want to do everything i can to get this under control to protect me, my family and my community. host: for those people who might still be on the fence, i wonder what you think this booster announcement will do to that. the data here showing waning
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protection rates over time, are you concerned that will keep people from getting their first shot, when we are now talking about a three shot dose? guest: i hope not. i encourage people to talk to health providers, their own doctors and nurses, people they trust, about this. i am a general pediatrician. the idea over time that people need additional doses of vaccine is not something new to me. we vaccinate every baby, every young child at age 1 against measles, mumps. we have learned over time the level of protection drops down, not everyone gets a full level of protection. before kids enter school at the age of four or five, they get another dose. they do not need another dose after that.
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for something like flu, we found each season, we need another dose of the flu vaccine. some of it is also due to the drop in immunity you get from your annual flu shot. host: pennsylvania, claire on the line for those who are vaccinated. caller: good morning. i am a teacher in pennsylvania. last spring, the pennsylvania department of education made available but johnson & johnson vaccine to all of the teachers in the state. there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of us who got the johnson & johnson vaccine. our school year starts in about two weeks. is there any way we can get some information about the booster shot for the johnson & johnson before our school year starts?
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that is kind of a general question for all the teachers, but for me, personally, i am immuno suppressed. i had covid lester and i have not been able to -- i had covid last year and i have not been able to return to work. i wonder if you recommend another johnson & johnson booster shot or should i try to get one of the mrna shots instead? thank used to much and good luck with the work you are doing. host: dr. besser? guest: i am sorry to hear about your own health issues and you had covid last year. i encourage you to talk to your doctor about your own situation and if it is worth you getting a vaccine now at this time. in terms of the overall picture for those received the j&j
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vaccine, the one dose, the government is waiting on data. the company has done a two-dose trial. i have not seen any data to suggest the level of protection from the one dose vaccine people received has fallen off. i would say, stay tuned. if it is in line with what the government is recommending for those who receive the mrna vaccine, the earliest group getting a vaccine eight months out would be in november. in terms of what we need to do to protect teachers and staff and children in schools, i think we need to require that all people who can get vaccinated in those schools get vaccinated. that will protect teachers and staff in a big way. we need to ensure that schools have done the measures that the cdc have lifted up to provide a
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safe environment. looking at the ventilation system, requiring testing protocols, separating desks at least three feet and requiring that everyone wear a mask indoors. those things are all part of what it takes to create a safe environment. thankfully, children are at a very low risk of severe disease, hospitalization and dying from this. but that is not true for everyone who works in a school. we have to make sure the environment is safe for teachers and staff. i believe children belong in school learning this fall, it is important for their educational progression, but it is also important for their physical and mental health, their socialization, and i believe we can do it safely. rates of transmission and schools tended to be lower than in the surrounding community. it will be a rocky fall because
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we will see schools that have to close down periodically as cases of covid due to the delta variant come into the school. i think we can do this safely for everyone. host: vicki is in chicago, vaccinated, good morning. vicki, are you with us? caller: yes, yes i am. i have a question. my husband and myself, we are both senior citizens in a high-risk group. we received our covid shots. i received moderna, my husband received pfizer. none of us developed anti-bodies. my question is, how is this possible? we had different vaccines, what is going on? what happened? what should we do now?
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guest: thank you for that question. it is an interesting question. i am not sure exactly why you had anti-body levels measured following vaccination, since that is something that is not routinely done. the vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective for the two-dose series. i would suggest you talk to your doctor about that. there is always a possibility if you are on a particular medication that could have interfered with the vaccine effectiveness. unfortunately, i cannot give personal medical advice on television. that would not be good for you. i would encourage you to talk to your doctor about that. host: new york city on the line for the unvaccinated. good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call.
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the reason i am unvaccinated is i have been advised by multiple medical providers that i cannot be. i am in a rare category. i am now in new york city and experiencing quite a bit of discrimination as someone who is disabled, mostly homebound. i feel like we put all of our eggs in one basket -- vaccination. we were promised rapid, affective covid testing so if you need to enter a restaurant to go to the bathroom, if i am well enough able to eat, i am prohibited from using a toilet, for example. i do not understand what happened with the promise for rapid, affective testing. i am concerned about masking. americans have consistently been told -- other than the beginning
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were told not to wear masks -- i feel like nobody has leveled with the american people. the reason we were told not to wear masks is production of masks were in china at 90%, 10% to mexico. one of the last manufacturers of n-95, he gave powerful testimony before a house subcommittee. he went to multiple administrations, telling them the off shorings of masks was a risk and he was unsuccessful in convincing our government that we needed n95s manufactured in this country. people have been told to wear masks. a cloth mask provides 20% protection. a medical mask is worn properly, maybe 40%. an n95 gives you 95% protection.
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guest: thank you for those questions. the first point i want to get to is there are a group of people
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because they decided to not get vaccinated. there are people who have disabilities where they cannot get vaccinated or they got vaccinated and were not texted. it's very them that we do all we can to reduce the stigma, here. host: criticism of the cdc, whether it is on guide this or whether it is nimble enough in a
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fast-changing world with a delta variant, an article from today's "washington post," on the topic, handling of delta data setting the u.s. back, noting the growing frustration with their slow and silent approach to sharing data that prevented officials from across the government from getting real-time information on how the delta variant was bearing down across the united states with an information gap that they said stymied the response. i wonder, your response as former acting director of the cdc on those for this-isms. guest: it is a valid critique. the cdc throughout its history has been very academic and wanted to make sure that all the data brought forward has been checked, double checked, triple checked, peer-reviewed before being published. that's a very challenging
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situation to be and in the middle of a crisis. in the article it talks about a movement going forward for the cdc is establishing rapid data analysis in the projection center and it is going to be led i a couple of very well-known epidemiologist. again, i hope that the promise -- >> -- turn it over real quickly to general taylor, who you all know, and who is going to give us an operational update on where things sit in kabul, as well as the operational support update for the people of haiti and i will come back after some schedule items to talk to in then we will take questions. jim? >> good morning, everybody. it's good to be here to continue to give you an operational eight. as you know, we are getting into a rhythm here, so i will try to fo


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