tv Face the Nation CBS November 29, 2021 2:30am-3:00am PST
captioning sponsored by cbs .>> brennan: i'm margaret brennan, and this week on "face the nation," countries are racing to contain a new covid strain, and the u.s. is on high alert as experts warn it's likely already here. with much of the u.s. now vaccinated, americans seem to enjoy an almost-normal holiday, but the w.h.o. just sounded the alarm about a new concern-- omicron, a highly mutated covid variant is now in more than a dozen countries across the world, triggering new travel restrictions and sending jitters through a global economy still on the mend. >> we're going to be cautious. we don't know a lot about the variant, except that it is of
great concern. it seems to spread rapidly. >> brennan: we'll bring you the latest reporting on the evolving covid pandemic, and we'll check in with former f.d.a. commissioner dr. scott gottlieb. >> my worst nightmare is something that you've just described, and, unfortunately, it's happened. >> brennan: plus, dr. anthony fauci reflects on nearly two years of the country battling coronavirus. he still has plenty he'd like to get off his chest. senator cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted. >> yeah. ( laughs ) i have to laugh at that. i should be prosecuted? what happened on january 6, senator? >> brennan: do you think that this is about making you a scapegoat to deflect from president trump? >> of course,sh. you have to be asleep not to figure that one out. >> brennan: stay tuned for our extended sit-down with dr. fauci, on the origins of covid, the hard lessons we've
learned and the fight ahead. then, the holiday shopping spree has officially begun. but how will inflation and supply chain problems affect you during this make-or-break season for the country's retailers and consumers? we'll talk to the c.e.o. of worldwide consumer at amazon, dave clark. it's all just ahead on "face the nation." >> brennan: good morning. welcome to "face the nation." a week ago, much of the world had never heard of covid's omicron variant. four days ago, south african authorities alerted the world health organization that they detected a new covid strain in a small number of individuals from nearby botswana. since then, reaction has been swift. on friday, the w.h.o. declared it a variant of concern, citing
evidence of increased transmissibility. it has since been detected on at least four continent nents with new cases detected this morning in australia and france. the w.h.o. also asked countries to avoid imposing travel bans to contrain the spread, but thus far, that advice seems to be going unheeded as countries from the u.s. to europe to east asia restrict travel to and from southern africa. we begin today with cbs news foreign correspondent joe paterno, who is in johannesburg, south africa. >> reporter: we've been here before-- a pandemic-weary world plunged into uncertainty with the discovery of a new variant. omicron has a worrying number of mutations, over 30, that scientists fear could make it more transmissible and vaccine resistant. >> the first time i saw it i just saw the mutations and i didn't quite believe it. in fact, i thought we weren't doing something right. >> reporter: this woman from
south africa's national institute for communicable diseases says scientists should know within the next 14 days just how dangerous omicron is. cases are slowly rises in south africa but are still very low, sitting at just over 3,200 nationwide. but it's put the rest of the world on edge. before the arrival of the new variant, europe was already the epicenter of an alarming surge in cases. >> go, go, go. >> reporter: terrified of a repeat of spring, which saw the delta variant spread with lethal speed, one nation after another has shut its doors to countries across southern africa. the u.s. is prohibiting foreign travelers from south africa and seven other african nations from entering its borders, while israel has taken a hard line, banning all foreign nationals from entering the country for two weeks. in the netherlands, at least 61 people who arrived on two flights from south africa, have
tested positive for covid, 13 infected by the new omicron strain. there is bitter anger here over the hasty travel bans. south africa says the country is being punished for its excellent science and ability to spot variants quickly. the u.s. has praised south africa for its transparency, but that hasn't helped smooth over smoldering resentment amongst many africans who believe they are embargo the brunt of wealthy nations' decisions to horde the lion's share of vaccines. is omicron the price the world pays for not having global vaccine access? >> i think, yes, it should remind us that it may have played a role and that we should be making vaccines accessible to all populations throughout the world. >> reporter: in south africa, omicron has shown up mainly in young drawlts, a group that has the lowest vaccination rates. but although doses were slow to arrive in this country, they are
now widely available here. vaccine hesitancy and difficulty accessing remote regions have complicated the rollout. elsewhere on the continent, there are still desperate shortages. less than 7% have been fullyccik ion norec jab. >> brennan: debora patta reporting in johannesburg. we go now to dr. scott gottlieb. he's a former f.d.a. commissioner and current pfizer board member. he joins us from westport, connecticut, this morning. good morning to you, doctor. >> good morning. >> brennan: there is nothing short of panic, and i'm hoping you can give us some perspective here. the w.h.o.sps and the n.i.h. say this variant appears more transmissible. do you have any indication that it's more lethal or that it makes people more ill? >> yeah, not-- not right now. the the three critical questions right now is, first, is this more virlant? to your question, is this making people more ill?
there is no information it is. there is some anecdotal information that this could be causing milder illness. that could be an artifact of the fact that the initial cases seem to have been clustered in younger people, perhaps in outbreaks around universities. the second critical question is does this escape immunity? this is the question that has people concerned. when you look at the genetic sequence of this new variant, it has a lot of mutations that we know correlate with escape from immunity that's conferred by prior infection or by the vaccines. but then the third critical question is does that escape from immunity increase its transmissibility? there's an assumption right now that it does. we don't have a firm answer to that question. but even if its ability to escape the immunity that we've acquired from prior infection or vaccine, makes it more transmissible in certain circumstances, the question will be does a fully vaccinated individual, has good protection against the variant. right now if you talk to people in the vaccine circle, people
working on the vaccine, they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine-- three full doses of vaccine-- is going to be fairly protective against this new variant. the other critical question we're going to need to answer is whether or not someone who has immunity from prior affection from delta also has good protection. if those hold true, someone infected with delta is well protected and someone fully boosted is well protected, that could be a pretty good backstop from this becoming epidemic in the united states. >> brennan: you're talking about vaccine makers. moderna's president told "the new york times" this is the highest level of alert we have ever been on so far, but it will take weeks to know before the vaccine is actually known to be effective or not. from what you've seen-- and we've mentioned you're on the board of pfizer-- what do you know? >> well, look, people close to this who are starting to do modeling work-- so we don't have data, certainly clinical data,
and we don't have data from test tube studies. but people who have looked closely at this sequence and the protection offered by the vaccine-- remember the third dose of the vaccine provide a much broader level of immunity. it's not just more antibodies you develop, but you develop antibodies against more parts of the virus-- those individuals feel reasonably confident three doses of vaccine could be protective. that could be a strong impetus to try to get more people boosted. we're going to have more studies out by the end of the week, certainly into next week, is scientists will take the plasma from people who have two doses of vaccine or three doses of vaccine or were never vaccinated and recovered from a delta affection, and they'll test to see if it neutralizes the virus. i believe those studies will show the neutralization against this virus decline substantially. that doesn't mean the vaccines won't be effective. the only south african variant,
we saw neutralization deter by two studies. so you could see a decline in neutralization. the vaccines will still be effective. >> brennan: important point to make there. a lot of americans are getting back on a plane after celebrating thanksgiving and gathering with their families. what do they need to know about transiting through airports, and should they get tested when they get back off that plane? >> look, i think people should use the same precautions that they were using before. it appears that this has been detected very early in south africa, and i think it's not that prevalent right now in south africa. we may be overestimating its prevalence because of the recent uptick in cases in south africa. there's a presumption many of those cases are this new variant. but it may well be the case that south africa could also exhibiting a surge of delta infection after they relaxed some of their recent mitigation following the big surge of deta. this probably isn't that prevalent around the world. i would still exer size the same
cautions as before. i think the biggest risk to travelers right now is given the uncertainty around the world, and the fact that countries are reacting so briskly, if you do end up being positive overseas, you could find yourself stuck in a very onerous quarantine relative to where we were maybe one or two weeks because. because i think countries are behaving with no frilz right now and trying to control the spread of this new variant. and they're taking pretty drastic measures in certain cases. >> brennan: so the c.d.c. said this variant has not been detected here yet. viewers will hear dr. fauci later in the program say that america's surveillance system isn't where it should be. how far behind are we? is it here already? >> it's almost definitely here already. just looking at the number of cases coming off planes this weekend, it's almost a certainty that there have been cases that have gotten into the united states. we're in a much better place now than we were a year ago when
delta first arrived. we're sequencing about 100,000 case as i week which is vrkd, about 20% of the diagnosed cases. c.d.c. will also set up this week a new surveillance system specifically for this variant. so they had the system in place was b.1.1.7 was epidemic, we were able to detect b.1.1.7 on normal p.c.r. tests that people get at a doctor's office, because a very specific finding, the s-gene dropout. it couldn't detect the "s" gene because it was so heavily mutated. they did away with that surveillance system because b.1.1.7 receded and they should reimplement that this week and that should be effective at detecting these cases. we have a pretty robust system in place now relative to six months ago. >> brennan: the w.h.o. said the first confirmed case was november 7. what does shutting off travel from south africa accomplish if this is already on four
continent nents? >> look, i think it's unfortunately very punitive and we could have accomplished what we're seeking to accomplish perhaps by increasing requirements on travelers, requiring they be vaccinated and a negative p.c.r. test in the last 24 hours. these are going to perhaps buy a couple of weeks. we didn't need to cut off travel. we're punishing south africa for doing the right thing, and telling other nations who want to sequence strains that they find that we're giving them disincentive to do that. this is a bad step, i think, from a policy standpoint. >> brennan: another policy question. we heard from our correspondent in south africa, that vaccines are actually widely available there. they're just not being distributed, that there is hesitation. we're hearing from the administration a call for donation of more doses and a call for lifting protections off of vaccine makers. is that the-- is that a different solution to the
problem that exists? >> well, look, i could tell you that five of eight countries that now fell under this travel ban imposed by the biden administration have told pfizer to either slow down or stop shipping vaccines because they haven't been able to distribute what they've received. that represents about 95% of the population that now falls under these travel bans in africa. it's south africa, zimbabwe, mozambique, and malawi. i can tell you with respect to south africa, south africa has also told j&j and pfizer, the two countries distributing vaccine there, to also throttle shipments or stop shipment because they have an excess of vaccines. they have 16 million doses in that country that they haven't been able to distribute in a population of 60 million people. of the 30 million doses pfizer sent to south africa, only 19 have been used to date. >> brennan: okay, it seems like that's a distribution problem and that's something we're going to have to follow up on. dr. gottlieb, thank you so much for your analysis this morning. we'll be right back. stay with us.
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president biden's top medical adviser dr. anthony fauci for a wide-ranging conversation before the new variant, omicron, was detected. and as the deadly delta i continues to spread. are we in a fifth wave? >> well, we certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave, and the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that, it will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months. for example, we have now about 62 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. superimposed upon that, the fact that unquestionably the people who got vaccinated six, seven, eight, nine, 10 months ago, we're starting to see an understandable diminution in the level of immunity. it's called waning immunity.
and it was seen more emphatically in other countries before we saw it here. for example, israel, which is usually about a month or a month and a half ahead of us temporally, with regard to the dynamics of the outbreak, the administration of vaccines, and most recently boosters. so now we know that although the vaccines are very effective, and the data that you look at are incontrovertible, that if you compare vaccinated with unvaccinated infections, hospitalizations, death, dramatically, multi, multi-fold more in those who are unvaccinated. however, given the waning of immunity, right now boosters are going to be very important. >> brennan: you sailed in the past that you would like to get under 10,000 infections a day in order to sort of live with covid. >> right. we've heard people say, understandably, they're trying to look for a metric to give to the public, that we're going to have to start living with covid. i believe that's the case, because i don't think we're
going to eradicate it. the best way you can get to where you want to go is to just say we're going to vaccinate as many people as we can. we're going to get as many people boost as we can, and we're going to get that level down. and i think that's going to have to be as low as less than 10,000. >> brennan: is it really realistic that we have to get to 85% of the population, which is what you've said in the past, in order to have herd immunity? it seems almost impossible to get there. >> let me get to that number, margaret, because it really is important. we have to be very humble about it. we don't know what that number is, and the reason is the number is a moving target because if you get someone who is vaccinated and he wanes down and gets below a certain level, i don't know whether you can count that as a full protected person, which is the reason why it's a combination not only of getting the total population vaccinated as a primary, but also getting people boosted. and that's what i mean by a moving target.
>> brennan: so what you're describing is never really having control, necessarily, of covid, but learning to, what, get boosted every six to eight months? >> great question, and that's what we don't know. the important part when you're dealing with a unique, never-before-experienced outbreak of a new various, sometimes you can extrapolate what you know about other viruses because there are some commonalities but sometimes you have to realize this may be very unique. right now, we do not know definitively what that course is going to be, whether it's going to be a three shot and you're done, or three shots and then every once in a while, you have to reboost. we'll have to see how things roll out. >> brennan: why isn't the c.d.c. tracking breakthrough infections? wouldn't you be be better able to answer that question. >> in many respects they are. >> brennan: among healthcare workers. >> we need to do a lot of
things. we really need to find out when you boost an individual, how long does that immunity last, both from a laboratory standpoint and from a protection standpoint. >> brennan: why did the united states decide not to track breakthrough infections? >> it's a very complicated situation, and often the public doesn't hear yet in time things that are being collected. so there's a lot of data, clearly a lot of data that's being collected by the c.d.c. that people don't know about yet. so we need to make sure in real time we get that data out. historically, when you're not in a pandemic, you can collect data, you can annual it, you can talk about it, and then you can look back and say, "this is what we've done." but when you're dealing with a pandemic, you've got to get that out in real time. so your policies can be dictated by data that occurred relatively recently, not data that occurred four or five months ago. >> brennan: that's the criticism, that they're too academic. >> yes. >> brennan: is there data being collected in the united
states about breakthrough infections that the public doesn't know about. >> yes, the c.d.c. is collecting data. >> brennan: beyond healthcare people. you have an idea. >> i don't have the data right now. we have to get the c.d.c. >> brennan: each school seems to be handling this differently, in terms of masking, not masking, when they alert parents. what's the most responsible thing for parents to do if they know they're sending their child into a classroom and someone in that room tests positive? >> there are a lot of options about that. upon there's a test to stay. in other words, if you test and you're negative, you don't have to go out and get quarantined. the idea about when you get an outbreak in a class, to immobilize essentially the class, is functionally very, very difficult to get a good academic year with some continuity about that. and that's reason why we need to do several things all at once. one, you want to surround the children with adults who are completely vaccinated. number two, you want to
vaccinate the adolescents that we already have been vaccinating for some time, vaccinate the 5- to 11-year-old. and when there is a case in the school, then you really have to do something about-- >> brennan: sometimes parents don't even know if there is a case. >> i know that. margaret, it has got to be articulated much more clearly so that people know exactly and there's no ambiguity abot that. when you don't know what the situation and you have community spread around, that's the reason why the c.d.c. still recommends masking for the children in school. >> brennan: but this is one of those criticisms of how our country responded here, which is just maybe it's by virtue of the federal system, but district by district, state by state, different things. ad then they look for you, for unified. "tell me what to do. tell me what to do with my kid," clarity. >> the clarity when it comes to the situation or the public health, we really need to-- and i think they are very likely
doing much, much better than what the public thinks they are-- is to get the c.d.c. to be very clear, to be very, very sharp about what a recommendation is, when there's no data to make that, to give a recommendation based on best judgment, if you want to call it that. >> brennan: when you say "lack of data," this has been i criticism throughout, that there's just not enough information being collected in this country, not enough surveillance being done. >> right, right. >> brennan: is that still the case in your view? >> we need to do more, no doubt about it, no doubt about it. we need to do more 0 vaness? >> we need to do more testing. >> brennan: when do we get to pull back the public health restrictions are for kids? is it until the toddlers get vaccinated? >> no, i think you're going to see, likely, a gradual pulling back. when you get-- you have to put the dynamics of the outbreak in a community into the mix of your decision making. if "x" number of months from now you have a very high proportion
of children vaccinateddure and in an area where the level, what i call the dynamics of infection, is very low, i would be almost certain you're going to see a significant diminution in the mitigation, such as masks and things like that. >> brennan: we'll have more of our conversation with dr. anthony fauci in our second half hour. stay with us. we'll be right back. ♪ my work has gone platinum. ♪ my work gives people hope. ♪ i work at fedex. ♪ take your career to the next level with one of our many open positions. ♪ (naj) at fisher investments, our clients know we whave their backs.ny open positions. (other money manager) how do your clients know that? (naj) because as a fiduciary, it's our responsibility to always put clients first.
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>> brennan: welcome back to "face the nation." the american consumer is the engine of the u.s. economy, and we're now officially in peak holiday shopping. we are joined now by dave clark. he's the c.e.o. of amazon's worldwide consumer business. mr. clark, good morning to you. >> good morning. >> brennan: from where you sit, what can you tell us? is price inflation eating into holiday spending? what do you expect this season? >> well, we're right in the middle of what we call "turkey five, "which is between thanksgiving and cyber monday, and we're off to a great start. we had a record-breaking brack friday, and we're seeing customers engage-- it's really interesting to see how customers are spending in this first
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