On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser
- Mayor Eric Garcetti, D- Los Angeles
- Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Arkansas
- Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the government’s plan to vaccinate Americans is already showing signs of strain, as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths climbs higher than ever, and concern over a new variant of the virus grows. It’s been a sobering start to 2021. Bad behavior over the holidays, as defined by CDC guidelines, threatens to make January the deadliest month, yet, in years since the virus was discovered. The U.S. has now recorded over twenty million infections, a number that’s doubled in the last eight weeks. In some parts of the country hospitals, morgues, and funeral homes are at or overcapacity. Health care workers are overwhelmed.
TOYA SENIOR (Cedars-Sinai Nurse): If you don’t know, things are pretty bad. Things are really bad. Please, everyone, do your part. Wear a mask, stay home, and help us reduce the strain on us because we need help.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Pictures of people waiting in long lines are now of those desperate for a COVID-19 shot.
SYLVESTER TURNER: Even though that there’s a– there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy, there’s still a strong desire from people to get the vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But there is chaos and lack of coordination at all levels with the vaccine distribution. Even those in charge of the efforts say it’s not a question of availability.
MONCEF SLAOUI: There’s a learning curve into the system and we’re going through it, particularly, a number of days have been, quote, unquote, “lost” because of the holidays or snowstorms.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll talk with the chief adviser or Operation Warp Speed, Doctor Moncef Slaoui. Plus, we’ll here from Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti. His city is ground zero for the holiday COVID-19 surge. Arkansas Republican governor Asa Hutchinson will also join us, as well as former FDA commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, and the head of the association representing tens of millions of America’s seniors, AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins. Then, a preview of Tuesday’s Georgia runoff elections. Those outcomes will determine control of the Senate. Will the state that went from red to blue in November see enough Democrats turn out to defeat not one, but two Republican senators?
It’s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. As we begin the New Year, optimism over the prospect of vaccinations is facing the reality of delays, confusion, lack of communication, and, once more, a federal government seemingly without a coherent plan for making the millions of doses already manufactured accessible to Americans. Overwhelmed states, many struggling with this latest surge, have been left in charge of getting the vaccine to Americans, and they’re having a hard time doing so. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb. More than three hundred and fifty thousand people have now died of COVID-19 in the U.S. California is the new epicenter of this latest outbreak. CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports from Los Angeles.
CARTER EVANS: With a new year comes new hope.
CARTER EVANS: But while vaccinations are underway across the nation–
MAN: It means seeing my grandkids a lot. That means everything.
CARTER EVANS: –they’re not happening fast enough. The Trump administration promised twenty million doses would be given by the end of 2020. But the CDC says just over four million people have been inoculated. Part of the problem is finding enough medical professionals to administer the shots.
RICH MACKINNON: The local boards of health have been overworked, a lot of them are understaffed.
CARTER EVANS: And there’s the time involved, including a fifteen- to thirty-minute observation period after the shot is given. Another delay: Vaccine skepticism. A new survey finds twenty-nine percent of health care workers are vaccine-hesitant. The growing COVID surge is pushing hospitals in Southern California to the breaking point.
TOYA SENIOR (Cedars-Sinai Nurse): Things are pretty bad. Things are really bad. We’re overwhelmed. We’re stressed. We’re– we’re stretched so thin. It’s pretty unimaginable.
CARTER EVANS: Some hospitals in the epicenter of L.A. county are already diverting ambulances. Others are preparing emergency plans for rationing care. And now the Army Corps of Engineers is mobilizing to update oxygen delivery systems at hospitals in L.A. New COVID cases here are up almost one thousand percent since November. One in every five people tested is now positive, and statewide COVID kills someone every three minutes. Morgues are overflowing, the dead now filling refrigerated trucks outside. Across the country in North Carolina, workers are setting up field hospitals, preparing for a new surge after the holidays. Same story in Atlanta, where they’re converting the convention center into a medical center again.
CARTER EVANS: Today marks the end of the busy holiday travel period. The TSA says in the last two weeks, it’s screened more than eleven million passengers. That, plus the tens of millions who likely traveled by road, has experts concerned another surge may be coming right about the time President-Elect Joe Biden is being sworn in. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Carter Evans, thanks.
Around the world, other countries–most notably Israel–are outpacing the U.S. when it comes to vaccinating their populations. As a percentage of population, Israel stands at 12.6 percent, while the U.S. is at just one percent behind Bahrain, Iceland, and the U.K. CBS News senior foreign correspondent Liz Palmer reports from London.
ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@CBSLizpalmer): Good morning. Those numbers point to the inequality of access to vaccine around the world. At this point, the developed countries with thirteen percent of the population have locked in more than half of the world’s vaccine supply.
ELIZABETH PALMER: It’s India’s giant pharmaceutical manufacturers that will be key to making enough vaccines, hundreds of millions of doses for the world, especially developing countries and, of course, for itself. The Indian government staged a dry run for a gargantuan program that will try to inoculate a million and a half people a day.
WOMAN #1: You see how short of breath you are.
ELIZABETH PALMER: But as vaccinations gathered speed, so did the virus. Extra contagious strains, one of them in South Africa, have pushed up the death rate alarmingly.
WOMAN #2: So, it’s scary. It’s scary for us all.
ELIZABETH PALMER: One in London has hit hard, too, and hospitals are at full capacity. So, it was a huge relief when regulators approved the cheap and easily stored Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine just before the New Year. Tomorrow, it will be rolled out in Britain with such urgency that for now people will only get one shot of it or the Pfizer vaccine, instead of the recommended two, to make supplies go further. Israel’s vaccine program is in full swing. It hopes to be the first country in the world to immunize all its citizens by sometime in March. That’s likely to be before some countries in Africa even get started. COVID ruined most New Year’s parties. In London, small groups of people hoping for fireworks were chased away by mounted police.
MAN: Start clearing the area please. You should not be gathering here.
ELIZABETH PALMER: But here and there, as in Taiwan, where COVID is firmly under control, crowds welcomed what the rest of the world so craves: a healthy 2021.
ELIZABETH PALMER: Widespread and truly global vaccine has to be well underway before things like safe travel for all of us can resume. And epidemiologists say that’s not likely to happen until at least 2023. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Palmer, thank you.
We want to go now to the chief adviser for the U.S. vaccine effort, that’s Operation Warp Speed. Doctor Moncef Slaoui joins us from Miami. Good morning to you, Doctor.
MONCEF SLAOUI, PhD (Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have U.S. officials gotten any insight into how this more contagious version of the virus that’s detected in the U.K. and South Africa, what the impact is? We know it’s from the U.K. at least– that version is in at least three U.S. states.
MONCEF SLAOUI: Yes, so that’s the information we have. The virus– this virus actually mutates as part of its normal behavior and, therefore, it is normal to expect that there will be variants. What’s very important is to study those variants and understand how infectious they are, whether they have more impact in terms of morbidity or mortality, and critically now, whether they are still sensitive to the vaccines that have been developed. And on those three counts, based on the information shared with us by the U.K. scientists and early data that we have here, we think that these viruses, these various variants should be under control with this vaccine. Fortunately, they are not more deadly–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –to the population. They are more infectious, and, therefore, they will further exacerbate the surge that we are having.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are reports, though, in the U.K. that more children are becoming ill. From the models you’ve seen, what does this new virus strain do to children?
MONCEF SLAOUI: Well, its– and its capacity to spread is higher. Frankly, I’m– I’m not very clear about the data showing a differential in accelerated spread between adults and children, but the fact of the matter is it will spread faster into the population. I think it should be a signal, again, to say what we need to do as a population is wear masks, distance ourselves, wash our hands, be very aware of people around us and continue to be very careful around the transmission.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
MONCEF SLAOUI: This will continue to happen. The key to the solution is vaccination.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let’s get to that solution then because it is the fastest vaccine development in Western history. Congratulations to you as overseeing that part of it. Now, we’re at the really complicated part of actually getting it to Americans. The President twice this week has blamed the states for failing to distribute it. If they’re not up to the task, what are you doing in Operation Warp Speed to help them?
MONCEF SLAOUI: Well, first, as you said, I think let’s– let me acknowledge the progress that’s been made, which has been remarkable, and it’s the work of tens of thousand or probably hundreds of thousands of people–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –to have been able to have five vaccines in phase three trials, two approved, probably one more to be approved in the next four to six weeks and twenty million doses of vaccines that we– as we had promised would be made available to the American people to be immunized with have been made available: seventeen and a half million have been shipped. Now, we do acknowledge–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but only a third of them have actually been used. So that’s– that’s–
MONCEF SLAOUI: Yes, absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –where the rubber meets the road.
MONCEF SLAOUI: We need to improve. Exactly–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what do you do in the states to help them?
MONCEF SLAOUI: We need to improve on that. I– so, we have visited actually the states. And I know you have the governor from Arkansas with you later on today. We, General Perna and myself, have visited the Department of Health in Arkansas. We have explained the process. This was on October 26th. Arkansas has actually ordered from the central reserve about a hundred and fifty thousand doses of the vaccine. Hundred and twenty some thousands have been delivered to the actual locations that they have told us. Therefore, our assumption has been that there is a plan in place to immunize. We stand by here to help any specific request. We will do the best we can, as we have done over the last eight months, to make these vaccines, indeed, make it into the arms of people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MONCEF SLAOUI: But we need to have a specific ask and maybe there will be one later on today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I– well, we will ask him–
MONCEF SLAOUI: There hasn’t been a specific request.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Sir, I know you know what these numbers are right now. We are at a peak level of infection. So figuring out the bureaucracy–
MONCEF SLAOUI: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –seems to be, you know, frustrating for people here because they want it now. So, what about jumpstarting–
MONCEF SLAOUI: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –the plan you have in place? You know, CVS and Walgreens say they have– they are expecting to get the vaccine in the spring to distribute to the population at large. Why not give it to them now? If the states are having a problem, go to the private sector.
MONCEF SLAOUI: Well, we, as you know, we have agreement with CVS and Walgreens and we are starting to ship vaccines to those locations as allocated by the states. That’s really the key point in– in the approach–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but that’s the problem, isn’t it?
MONCEF SLAOUI: –we have taken.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s why I’m saying, like, why can’t you help that?
MONCEF SLAOUI: I don’t think it’s a problem, frankly– I actually– well, we are here to help. Let me just, for instance, say over the last seventy-two hours 1.5 million vaccine doses have been inoculated. Even though there is a gap in reporting. That’s quite an important number. That’s five hundred thousand a day. We are optimistic as we go beyond this holiday season that the numbers will go up and we are standing ready to do what we are asked. Where there is help to be given, we’re standing by to help. I don’t think we are able to identify exactly which long-term care facility or which CVS store should be getting more vaccine or less vaccine. That has to be done with people that have granular knowledge of their population, their movements, where the older people are, or, you know, the–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MONCEF SLAOUI –various groups at risk–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –and then we’ll be there with them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so you’re saying that still has to be up to the states to figure out where they have the need. But let’s talk about the portion you can control, and that is the federal supply. If the goal is preservation of life, how can you still justify holding back more than half of the manufactured doses that you have? You know we just heard from the U.K. that they’re just trying to hit as many people at once. Why not do something like that and space out the time between doses?
MONCEF SLAOUI: Yes, so a scientific answer and then an alternative. I think it’s not reasonable when vaccines have been developed with two doses given twenty-one days apart, or twenty-eight days given apart, and where we have the data on their safety and their efficacy and we have no– after two doses. We have no data after one dose. If we leave people a month, two months, three months with maybe incomplete immunity, waning immunity, maybe even the wrong kind of immune response induced, that is then corrected by the second dose–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they’ve got zero immunity right now.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –to give them– well, it is– we– I’m– I’m going to tell you the alternative in one second. Just let me finish the point I’m making, which is we always said that these vaccines will be developed on the basis of science and all decisions will be made transparently on the basis of data. Changing the decisions made, the choices made, which was to give two doses of vaccine, the second dose gives you ten times higher immune response than the first dose, without any data I think would not be responsible. Here is the alternative. We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half the dose to people between the age of eighteen and fifty-five, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have. We know it induces identical immune response to the hundred microgram dose and, therefore, we are in discussion with Moderna and with the FDA. Of course, ultimately it will be an FDA decision to accelerate–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –injecting half the volume. I think that’s a more responsible approach that will be based on facts and data–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MONCEF SLAOUI: –to immunize more people. And, of course, we continue to produce more vaccine doses.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. And, quickly, do you have a date for when you will know whether once you’ve been vaccinated, you can still give the virus to others? Is there any timeline?
MONCEF SLAOUI: So that– those– no. Those studies, frankly, are going to be based on observational data into the population. I don’t think we will have data before late in the spring.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MONCEF SLAOUI: But I can’t give you an exact date.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Slaoui, thank you for your time this morning.
And FACE THE NATION will be back in a minute with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. So stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with the mayor of Los Angeles, one of the cities struggling with the pandemic. Eric Garcetti is our guest. Good morning to you.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-Los Angeles/@MayorOfLA): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are at the epicenter of this outbreak right now; and I saw you said a high percentage of deaths are among people with no underlying conditions. Why is the virus so deadly right now?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Well, we’re seeing a person every six seconds contract COVID-19 here in Los Angeles County, I think the nation’s largest county, ten million people. And it’s two reasons, one is just simple density. We’re the densest metro area in the United States. But we’re also seeing the household spread now. One person is coming home, an essential worker, there might be five, seven, ten people in that household. And this is a worrying trend that the fatalities now are not just people with pre-existing conditions. Ninety-two percent of previous deaths were people who had an underlying condition. That is rapidly falling. So, my message to everybody is this is not only going to come for somebody that you love. This is going to possibly come for you. And so everything we do is either lifesaving or life-taking at this point.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the higher incidence of death due in any way to the fact that you have a shortage of medical personnel?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: There’s no question that we have a shortage of medical personnel, but that’s not yet why we think those deaths are happening. We think it is spreading. It may be mutating as well, but we do believe that this is just how widespread it is and that a lot of people who are younger or don’t have pre-existing conditions have become very comfortable. This is a virus that preys off of our weakness, preys off of our exhaustion. Ninety-five percent of people can be doing the right thing. It’s still dangerous.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: If eighty percent are doing the right thing, it is disastrous. So, while we have high compliance here, we still have these tough months. And I think the vaccine has made everybody so hopeful that they can relax their behavior. We cannot. We cannot let up. This is the darkest month we will have, the toughest moment when both our country, its government and the nation– our people will be tested.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have a mask mandate. I mean you’re saying that some people are just not complying with some of the restrictions you’ve put in place. You had that targeted stay-at-home order in early December. Do you think that you waited too long to institute that?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: No. We have great compliance. We look at our data. People are moving less. I was talking to the head of the Red Cross out here who just moved from another state. She was blown away by how many people wear masks compared to where she was coming from. This is something now that really is spreading in the home. And once you get past that tipping point, and it’s a message for all of America, we might not all have the same density as Los Angeles. But what’s happening in Los Angeles can and will be coming to many communities across America. If you get two households together for Christmas, if you went to a New Year’s gathering even if it was people you know and love so you thought it was okay. That’s when this virus exploits that weakness and is going far. L.A. was the first place to close places down that– where people meet, have a mask mandate, offer widespread testing to folks with or without symptoms, surge into our senior and skilled nursing facilities–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: –where we arrested most of the deaths there. We’ve done everything right. But this virus doesn’t care what you’ve done in the past, only what you’re doing today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What about the vaccine that is being distributed now? You’ve publicly called for the vaccine manufacturers and the federal government to deliver more, but it’s your governor who controls the distribution. Is he not giving you what you need?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: No, we– we have not been delivered what was promised at the national level. I mean I know and thank God for the great work that was done nationally. Let me give that praise for developing and helping the private sector get these vaccines. But we are at a pace right now to deliver vaccines in Los Angeles in over five years instead of over half a year at this pace.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but you just heard the head of Operation Warp Speed lay that firmly at the door of the governors in this country.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Well, I respectfully disagree because I said six months ago, calling with Senator Chris Coons and a bipartisan coalition in Washington for a Care Corps, a Cares Corps that would have trained people for all sorts of things, including vaccine distribution, while Washington dithered, while they went on vacations, while they didn’t pass a relief bill for seven or eight months–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: –we could have been training out of work folks and students to be ready. We knew that the surge was coming in the winter. We also knew that the same medical personnel who would need to give the vaccines, if we were lucky to get them by the end of the year and we did, would also be pulled into those hospitals to treat people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Where was the forward planning?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the federal government keeps saying the forward planning was supposed to be with local government. And the city of Los Angeles, we know, you– you were talking about the uniqueness of your city in terms of density. You also have a high homeless population. You’ve had sixteen-percent rise in the year past. Well, how are you planning to deal with that problem and getting vaccine into those members of your community? Because that’s– that’s your problem as mayor?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Absolutely. And we’ve actually had a lower incidence of COVID-19 among our un-housed population than those of us in housing because of the way we did plan. And we did bring medical personnel to the streets and we have distributed masks. And that is a great platform to help make sure that vaccines are going to go to the most vulnerable. In fact, this week we stood up three and we’re about to do four more seven community walk-up vaccine sites for folks that are working right now in some of our community clinics, working on places like Skid Row. But to go to your point earlier, the federal government can’t tell the local governments and state governments to do something and not give us aid.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Well–
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: We were cut out of that federal assistance that we could have put into. I said the Cares Corps would have been–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: –not federal people coming in, but local folks hiring locally. And they failed to do–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: –that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, we wish you well. And I know– I know your daughter was recently ill. I hope she is recovering. Thank you for–
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: She is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –your time. We have a lot more FACE THE NATION.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Thank you, Margaret. Strength and love to you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The House will convene today in a rare Sunday session to swear in the new Congress, but one person who will not be there is Louisiana Republican Luke Letlow. He died last week of COVID-19. The congressman was forty-one years old, with a wife, two small children and no pre-existing conditions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to go now to Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who is also the vice chair of the Nationals Gov– National Governors Association. He joins us from Little Rock. Good morning to you, Governor.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON (R-Arkansas/@AsaHutchinson): Good morning, Margaret. Good to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m glad we have you today to talk about the vaccine and distribution. I want to quickly ask you something though on the political front as a Republican. Nearly a quarter of Senate Republicans say they have concerns about voter integrity, and plan on Wednesday to challenge Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. This is, to be very clear, all but certain to fail in terms of changing the outcome of the election. But other Republican senators say this is destructive to do in the first place. Where do you stand?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, it’s a– a process that they have the right to initiate. I think it’s a little bit of a Don Quixote jousting at windmills efforts. I think it is designed– certainly it will fail. Joe Biden is our president-elect and he will be confirmed in that capacity. I do think that from a state perspective, the challenges have been initiated through recounts and court challenges. And that’s how we work in our Electoral College, state by state. And so when it gets to Congress, it’s really a limited opportunity to review the intricacies of the election process. We should have confidence in what has been done and the reviews and the recounts. And let’s all recognize that while the system is not perfect, it worked state by state, and we should accept those results and move on to do some good things for our country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So I understand you do not support that effort. Thank you for your clarification there, Governor. I want to move on to the virus. The CDC says Arkansas has only distributed a third of the vaccines that you have been given. What’s the biggest challenge getting the doses into arms?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, there are a number of challenges and we’ve got to do better both at the federal and at the state level. One of the challenges is that we have a limited supply. And when you have a limited supply that means you’ve got to prioritize and you’ve got to make sure you’re giving it to those with the greatest needs, or those of the greatest risk. And that’s a challenge in and of itself. Secondly, you do have some reluctance and that creates some complications. We’re focusing on our long-term care facilities and that has to have consents in many instances and that slows up the process. But even with that, we have to do better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: We have to act with a sense of urgency and we can do that. We have to learn whenever you’re in a battle that you have to adjust to the circumstances of that battle.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: And right now, we’re going to have to make some adjustments in the plan to get these vaccines out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard the head of Operation Warp Speed say that they were working under the assumption that there is a plan in place to immunize at the state level. Was there not a plan in Arkansas? I mean that seems to be the implication here, that it is the governors who are dropping the ball.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: No, there has– there is a plan and that plan has been coordinated at the federal level, but let me lay it out for you. In phase one, we’re supposed to be doing our health care workers and we’re doing our long-term care facilities, residents and staff. The federal government allocates that based upon where we want it to go, but they’re working through the pharmacies and they made a contract with Walgreens and with CVS, two major chain pharmacies. But the states can or– or the local long-term care facilities can opt out. Sixty percent of ours opted out for independent pharmacies. They’re doing a better job of getting it out than the chain pharmacies. They are acting with more urgency. And so that’s an example of where I have learned that whenever you look now at the challenges with a specific population, what it’s going to be like when we move to essential workers and whenever we move–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: –to the general population, we’re going to have to utilize more resources to get this out than we’ve got planned right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What– what have the other states told you is their difficulty? Is it all the same that you’re laying out, the problems with the nursing homes?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Yes. It is the– the challenge of the work staff, the fact that we don’t have enough right now for our nurses. We have to utilize our pharmacies because they have the capability and relationships to get it out. But we’re going to have to look more broadly at how to utilize more resources, whether it is utilizing medical personnel that’s already strained in terms of our National Guard, whether it is–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: –bringing on pharmaceutical students that can do more in terms of giving these vaccinations out. We’ve got to increase the capacity–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: –of our human resources.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have the world’s largest retailer headquartered in your home state. They have a massive logistics hub. Have you asked Walmart to help you out?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Walmart is ready to help. This is an example of where–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would it be better if the private sector took this over?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: The private sector is very engaged. The private sector is doing it, both the independent pharmacies as well as the chain pharmacies. And so, the private sector is delivering it–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But if the federal government gave directly to them versus you?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: The federal government is giving directly to them. All we’re doing as a state is telling them where it goes and allocate it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: The delivery is directly to the private sector and they’re getting it out, but not as fast as we would like. And so it’s a partnership. And you’re going to see these numbers increase dramatically in the next week–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: –ten days. I believe by the end of January, you’ll have all of 1A vaccinated and we’ll be moving on to essential workers, if not sooner than that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. I ask you that because the head of Operation Warp Speed again said allocation came down to what the governors asked for and where they told them to send it. So, it just continues to be–
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: That’s correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –ping-pong here. So on the federal guidance, though–
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Now, it’s– it’s saying the same thing, Margaret, it’s saying the same thing. We are allocating where it goes. They deliver it to where we say and that’s to the private sector right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. The federal government right now is telling states to prioritize people seventy-five years old and up along with front-line workers. There are state governors, Florida, Texas, who have moved the age qualification downwards, right, to hit more of their elderly population. Are you going to do that or are you going to stick with what the federal government’s telling you to do?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: We’re looking at reducing that to seventy, as well. The argument that it should be allocated seventy-five and up first is because there’s a limited supply. It might be easier for you to distribute it and know exactly who you’re distributing it to. But the seventy and up population we’re looking at, we’re trying to save lives getting to the most vulnerable first. And so we’re still looking at that as to whether that should be lowered. That decision will be forthcoming.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you may endorse what Governors Abbott and DeSantis are doing?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: We’re looking at that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: It may happen. We’re also looking at some other modifications to the recommendation of the CDC, which is simply recommendations to the governors.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Governor Hutchinson, thank you very much and good luck to you.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He’s also on the board at Pfizer and he joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve said January is going to be the hardest month. I’m– I’m looking at this slower-than-expected rollout and this new strain of coronavirus. Does all of this come together to mean that the peak will be extended, that this is going to be painful for a longer period?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It’s possible. You know we were hoping that we’d have more injections in people’s arms at this point and the vaccine could be starting to have an impact on the trajectory of the epidemic. And the new variant certainly creates more risk that this epidemic peak could get extended. We’re going to see the epidemic probably peak at some point this month, hopefully earlier in the month. I mean, that was the original estimates and the original modeling. But the lag in terms of the effect on a health care system is going to be about three weeks. And so the health care system is not going to see maximal resource utilization told closer to the end of the month. And that’s when we’re likely to see the peak number of deaths on a daily basis as well. So we still have a ways to go with this current surge of this epidemic until we start to see cases decline, hospitalizations start to decline, and, hopefully, deaths start to decline. The new variant does create a lot of risk, however, that we start to see accelerated spread.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What new risks? Doctor Slaoui said that it seems the vaccines do work against it. What risks are you seeing?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, we’re not vaccinating quickly enough to create a backstop against the spread of this new variant. Right now there’s some estimates that the new– new variant probably represents about one percent of all infections in this country. By March, it’s going to be the majority of infections. It’s going to grow quickly. And so one of the– the real key to controlling this new variant is to control the epidemic. That means doing the things that we’ve been doing, mask wearing, social distancing, but it also means getting more people vaccinated quickly. I think that the– the existence of this new variant that spreads more readily really creates more urgency around trying to get this vaccine out more quickly and get more people vaccinated, even if it’s a more general population. There’s a lot of excess demand for the vaccine right now, particularly in the elderly population. I think we ought to think about moving quickly through these phases that we’ve delineated and move more quickly into a general vaccination program for those sixty-five and above.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I– I thought it was, interesting. Governor Hutchinson sort of leaned into that concept, saying they were looking at what the governors of Florida and Texas have done with making this available to other age populations at this point. Would you ask of– other governors to do that? Because Governor DeSantis was really kind of hit hard by, you know, images of long lines of older people waiting. It didn’t seem to be moving quickly in terms of vaccinations, though, he widened the number of people who qualify for it.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think we can have a dual strategy here where we continue to prioritize certain hard to reach communities and have public health departments focus on that mission. And they’re uniquely skilled to do that mission and then make the vaccine more generally available through the retail pharmacies, through Walmart and Walgreens and CVS, to a broader population, to a general population starting with age. We can walk it down the age continuum, make it available for seventy-five and above first, then seventy above, then sixty-five and above. There’s fifty million Americans sixty-five and above, a large percentage of them probably want to be vaccinated. At some point we need to allow supply to meet demand here and get the– the shots into the arms of the people who really want to get vaccinated and are going to go out and seek out the vaccination. If we’re pushing it through the retail pharmacies, you’re not going to see the long lines. They’re going to have a scheduling system in place and it’s going to be a more orderly distribution. And then, commensurate with that, we can have the public health departments focusing on the critical mission of going into homes, reaching harder-to-access communities, people who are more reluctant and need a little bit more encouragement to get vaccinated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: That’s someplace where the public health establishment can really focus on a discernible mission.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But explain that because you have Operation Warp Speed saying it is working with the private sector. You had the gov– the governor of Arkansas saying they are working with the private sector. Are you saying that the private sector should just take it over at this point?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we’ve– we have forty million vaccines that– that were delivered in December. Five million were injected into arms. That’s thirty-five million vaccines sitting on a shelf somewhere. I’m saying that we can be delivering these vaccines directly to Walmart and Walgreens, and in New Jersey they’re shipping them through ShopRite, and allow these retail establishments to start opening up more general vaccination programs for the broader public instead of working very slowly through these preordained phases that we’ve– we’ve articulated. Continue to– to accomplish that mission because it’s important, but also take some of this excess supply and push it through a retail channel to the general public. If someone who’s seventy years old or sixty-five years old wants to schedule an appointment at CVS to get a vaccination, they should be able to do that this month. So I think we should start working through the age brackets and just work our way down until we work off some of the supply. There’s more vaccine coming on the market every day. We’re going to have a significant backlog right now or, you know, warehouse inventory of vaccines.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: And that’s tragic because these could be accomplishing an important public health purpose.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, because Operation Warp Speed is already stockpiling half– more than half of the supply that they have. What about vaccine-hesitancy? The– the governor of Ohio said sixty percent of nursing home staff members offered the vaccine in his state declined it. You’re seeing similar hesitancy elsewhere. These are medical personnel and health care staff and they’re saying no.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, look, that’s another reason to be making this more generally accessible. It is a reality that some people aren’t going to want to get vaccinated, or are going to be reluctant to get vaccinated. It’s going to take more work. There’s about a hundred and fifty million Americans who get vaccinated for flu each year. About sixty million of them are under the age of fifteen. So that’s about ninety million people who get vaccinated for flu. I think that’s your low hanging fruit for getting COVID vaccinations out. Some high proportion of the people who get a flu vaccine are also going to get a COVID vaccine. If we just simply make this generally accessible to sixty-five and above this month, that’s fifty million Americans, probably about thirty million of them will take it. That’s your low hanging fruit. That’s the pent-up demand. We need to start working that off because trying to push it into, you know, very discrete populations, you’re going to be bumping up against people who don’t want it and it’s going to create friction. It’s going to create a slowdown in trying to get this vaccination out. We need to get more people vaccinated quickly and recognize that every vaccination–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: –at this point really is a public health win.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor Gottlieb, thank you for your analysis.
And we’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Jo Ann Jenkins. She is the CEO of the American Association of Retired Persons. You know it as AARP and she’s at their headquarters in Washington this morning. Good morning to you.
JO ANN JENKINS (AARP CEO/@JoAnn_Jenkins): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: December was a very deadly month during this pandemic, particularly for nursing home residents. The federal government plan is to have pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens set up clinics to vaccinate inside of these facilities. And it started in about thirty-six states just this past week. Is it moving fast enough?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think by every mea– questionable that it has not moved fast enough that, you know, forty percent of the people who have died in this country live in nursing homes. And so, we see this really as an unconscionable national disaster that three hundred and fifty thousand people in this country have died from COVID-19 and forty percent of them have lived in nursing homes or work in nursing homes, and, yet, they only represent one percent of the population. So, no, we’re not moving fast enough.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I didn’t hear a lot of specifics from– from the– the governor or from the head of Operation Warp Speed on what they want to change. And I’m wondering from you what your view is because we did hear earlier in the week from Operation Warp Speed saying that some nursing homes aren’t vaccinating until they have enough doses for everyone in the facility. That’s a federal requirement. Should the government suspend it?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think that, you know, if you look at the data and the fact that that’s where people are dying, you have to come to the conclusion that they should be doing everything that they can to be administering this vaccine as soon as possible. I know that there are 2.2 million doses that have gone out to nursing homes, and, yet, only thirteen percent of that has been administered. And so we have to find a solution and, you know, we need to stop pointing fingers and–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
JO ANN JENKINS: –you know, looking at who– who’s to blame. And really all of us, whether it’s mayors or governors or the federal or governors all across this country to really try to fix this problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that’s a yes, they should lift that requirement?
JO ANN JENKINS: Absolutely. Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: At– at the state level you– you heard a debate about whether the age qualification should be lowered more quickly, like it has been in Texas and in Florida. Would you ask other governors to do that?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think if you look at the data of where people are dying and if, in fact we can stop people from dying of COVID, we know that that will offer some relief to the hospitals all across this country. We have examples that we’re hearing from thousands of our members, particularly like those in Florida, who are standing in lines of three, four hundred of them at three and four o’clock in the morning trying to– to get that vaccination. I think that we have to really solve this issue and really come together so that there is some standard for which the states and the local nursing homes know how they’re going to get this vaccine and what it is they’re supposed to be doing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There’s confusion. I mean I know people who– who ask– where do I find out when I qualify? What do you tell your members? Do they call their doctor? Do they get an e-mail? Who do they ask? Their local health department?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think one of the things that we’ve tried to do at AARP is, you know, we have AARP.org/coronavirus where we’re listing everything that we have from the states about what– how the vaccine, the priorities in each of the states, how they’re going to be able to get their vaccinations. Clearly, we’re hearing directly from our members that they are confused about whether or not they should be calling their physician, whether or not someone’s going to contact them, which of the vaccines should they be trying to take if they live in rural America or in an urban city, just how that’s going to happen. And I think that there could be some simple clarity and transparency about what is to be expected, the time frame that individuals all across this country should be thinking about. Clearly, we need to keep up the protections of wearing mask and washing our hands and doing all of those things. We shouldn’t let our guard down. But there needs to be further clarity about and– and expectations set about when this vaccines are going to be administered widely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that staff in nursing homes should be mandated to take the vaccine?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think that the data tells us that that’s where the deaths are occurring and that for patients and people who work in nursing homes, they need to be protected in a way. But, clearly, it’s not– it’s not ours to– to mandate a vaccine–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, governors– governors would have to mandate that, right? Is that what you’re asking governors to do?
JO ANN JENKINS: Well, I think that we’re saying to the governors that– that this is a way to bring it under control and that while we at AARP don’t have the authority to– to mandate this, that this is one of the– one of the only ways that we had that we know that this– this particular COVID-19 disease can be brought under control.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And it may come down to employers. Jo Ann Jenkins, thank you very much for– for sharing what you’re seeing out there.
We’ll be right back with a look at Tuesday’s Georgia’s senate race. It’s an important one. Don’t go away.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In Georgia a pair of runoff elections on Tuesday will decide control of the U.S. Senate and shape the agenda of the incoming Biden administration. Here’s our senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann.
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): Republicans have a New Year’s resolution: Keep Georgia red as its clay.
SENATOR KELLY LOEFFLER (R-Georgia): We have to hold the line here against socialism. We need y’all to get out and vote.
MARK STRASSMANN: In dual runoffs here, if Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both lose, Democrats will seize control of the Senate. It would be a fifty-fifty split with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any tie vote.
JON OSSOFF (Democratic Senate Candidate): The whole country is watching Georgia voters to see what we will do at this historic moment.
MARK STRASSMANN: Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock each have raised more than one hundred million dollars over the last two months. Their blitzkrieg of ads called both Republicans corrupt.
WOMAN (Campaign Ad): Looting Loeffler and Chicken Perdue.
REVEREND RAPHAEL WARNOCK (Democratic Senate Candidate): You can either help Kelly Loeffler to help herself or you can help me to help you.
MARK STRASSMANN: More than three million Georgians have already voted. Some in lines, almost four hours long. The wildcard: President Trump’s groundless griping about election fraud here and its impact on Republican turnout this Tuesday.
MAN: I don’t believe he lost Georgia. No, I don’t.
MARK STRASSMANN: Over the weekend, the President tweeted Georgia’s runoffs were “…illegal and invalid…” Billboards urged resentful Republicans voters to stay home in a moment when state and national GOP leaders need those voters to turn out.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina): My family, my nation, our way of life depends upon you.
MARK STRASSMANN: President Trump will hold a runoff rally in North Georgia tomorrow, but many Republicans here worry it could do more harm than good.
MARK STRASSMANN: In dueling last-minute rallies, President Trump and President-elect Biden will both campaign in Georgia tomorrow. Senator David Perdue will likely miss his stage time with Mister Trump. Perdue is quarantining after being exposed to a staffer with COVID. So far he’s tested negative. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark, thanks.
And as our new senior national correspondent Mark will continue to report regularly for us here at FACE THE NATION.
That’s it for us today. Thank you for watching. Until next week I’m Margaret Brennan.