FULL EPISODE: 12/13/20 Adm. Giroir talks vaccines; Sen. Cassidy & Rep. Shalala talk stimulus

Gov. Edwards, Admiral Giroir outline state’s plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccine
Gov. Edwards, Admiral Giroir outline state’s plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccine
Updated: Dec. 12, 2020 at 4:55 PM EST
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., Former Clinton HHS Secretary Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, December 13, 2020.

Adm. Giroir said “the end of the pandemic is in sight” now that the FDA has approved the first coronavirus vaccine; predicted every American who wanted the vaccine would have it by the end of June; and dismissed concerns that the Trump administration had not secured enough doses, insisting “We are confident that negotiations for the extra doses from Pfizer will go well, and the president also said that he has certain powers that if the negotiations don’t go well, he’ll make sure they go well.”

Rep. Shalala, who served as HHS Secretary under President Bill Clinton, acknowledged the historically fast timeline for producing a vaccine, but was critical of the White House’s overall COVID response, saying “The Trump administration has fallen down on getting PPE distributed, getting the right number of ventilators. But more than anything else, getting people to wear masks.” She added: “This has been very sloppy, and we need to have a very smooth transition, because we’re going to get COVID-20 next.”

Shalala also told Van Susteren she was not worried about anti-vaxxers because she was certain employers would make the case that to go back to work people would need to get the vaccine.

Sen. Cassidy spoke of his efforts on bipartisan COVID relief negotiations that included “a second round of Payroll Protection Plan, additional unemployment benefits for those who have been laid off, more money for testing, more money for vaccine distribution,” acknowledging “Our leadership has not yet bought into it, but we’re the only bipartisan game in town.”

On the Hunter Biden investigation controversy, the GOP Senator said he agreed with DOJ guidelines about keeping the investigation under wraps “because we’re all innocent until proven guilty.” Sen. Cassidy added: “I always think, what if the shoe was on the other foot? I am so mad at what the FBI did, still mad with President Trump. I felt that was a little bit of a miscarriage. So I just want to live by the golden rule.”

Interview highlights are below.

Adm. Brett Giroir Highlights

On the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

It really is an exciting time. There are really no adjectives to describe what this means because what it really means is the end of the pandemic is in sight. We have a few more months of really hard work to do, masking, social distancing, but really starting just within 48 hours, we’re going to start getting vaccine into people’s arms, and we know very excitingly that the vaccine is about 95% effective, it’s very safe. What did really worry me before is to make sure it would work in all age groups, and it does. It really will protect our elderly just as well as it will protect our younger Americans.”

On whether the Trump administration purchased enough of Pfizer’s vaccine

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

I wasn’t involved in those purchasing decisions. I can only tell you what Secretary Azar has told me, and that is it is not the case that the White House or HHS or this country had an opportunity for a specific buy of an extra 100 million doses. 100 million doses were bought. There is an option to buy another 500 million doses. That option is still on the table, and there’s negotiations for that right now. We now have 200 million doses purchased from Moderna. That’s not counting the other vaccine.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

Really, all I know is that, but I’ve been assured, and you heard the president this week say that we are absolutely certain that every American who wants a vaccine can get it by the end of June. We are confident that negotiations for the extra doses from Pfizer will go well, and the president also said that he has certain powers that if the negotiations don’t go well, he’ll make sure they go well. We’re not going to let any American go unvaccinated who wants to go vaccinated. I don’t think it’s an issue. I don’t think it’s a story. As far as I hear, everything’s going on track, and we’ll have plenty of vaccine.

On vaccine distribution

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

Most states will have all their vaccine given in people’s arms within the first three to seven days.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

This is something we know how to do. We know how to give vaccines. Everyone is highly motivated to get this done. For nursing homes, it’s 99%, it may be 100% right now, are taking advantage of the government’s program with Walgreens and CVS to physically go in the nursing homes and provide the vaccines to their residents.

...Of course, this is a monumental type of distribution, and there’s always going to be a hiccup here or there, but we think this is going to go overwhelmingly successfully.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

We expect to immunize 20 million people in December, another 30 million people in January, and another 50 million people in February. By the end of February, we expect 100 million people to be able to be immunized and that by the end of June, everyone in America who wants a vaccine will have been able to get a vaccine by the end of June.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

The distribution is challenging because it’s so important, and it’s life-saving, but we know where every package is, their radio frequency controls on them. We know exactly what the temperature is in every package to assure cold chain. Then it’s just like giving a vaccine like it’s done hundreds of millions of times every year in this country.”

On whether employers can make people take the vaccine

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

I’m not sure that... and I think it varies state to state. Certain hospital systems do require you, for example, to get your influenza vaccine because that’s very important to protect you and also to protect the hospitals. I’m an MD. I’m a critical care pediatrician, an admiral in the public health service, but I’m not a lawyer. Certainly, the federal government does not plan on mandating any vaccination program to any groups of individuals, but I presume similar to other vaccines that states or local hospitals as a condition of employment could do that for the protection of their patients.”

On who gets the vaccine first

Greta Van Susteren

Who is first in line? I understand healthcare workers are, but... Assuming that they are. How many define healthcare workers because it could be the doctor taking care of the patient but could be someone who could be even moving trays in a room.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

Yes, it’s pretty broadly defined. There are about 20 million healthcare workers, but I’m a pediatric ICU physician, and everybody thinks of doctors and nurses, but the person who cleans that room to make sure there’s no fungus in that room or yeast so the patient doesn’t get infected is a really vital part of the team, pharmacists, people who bring trays, so this all counts, they all count because we need to keep them up and running, not that they’re at particular risk. Remember, hospital workers and healthcare workers have rates of infection much lower than their general community because they’re careful, they wear PPE at work, but we are seeing attrition now. When the hospitals are getting fuller, we are seeing people getting sick, mostly from exposure in their community, and we just have to keep our healthcare system robust and working.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

If you’re sick, you want a nurse at your bedside. You want a respiratory therapist to be able to give you oxygen. That’s why long-term care facility residents, those who are the most vulnerable and have accounted for a large minority of the deaths during this pandemic as well as healthcare workers are the first group. Then after the first group, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about the second and third groups. Some of it’s going to depend on the status of the hospital systems. If a hospital system in a state is very tight and very pressed and very challenged, there’s going to be more of a reason to vaccinate the elderly in the community as well as those with multiple conditions because those are the people who really wind up in the hospital.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

There is a list published by DHS of essential workers, and so there are numbers of categories. You can go in their website. It’s pretty public, but there are a lot of people in that category, people who work in the food industry, teachers are now part of essential workers. I think when you start getting to essential workers, you’re going to have to parse that a little bit more because many essential are essential, but they’re not really at risk or at least as much of a risk of a bad side effect of getting the virus like the elderly are.

Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS Asst. Secretary for Health and White House coronavirus testing czar

If you’re over 70, your risk of dying is about 13% if you get the disease. If you have multiple conditions, your risk is approaching that, and you’re going to wind up in the hospital. I think the next traunch of vaccines is going to be much more deliberative among the governors and the state health officials about who gets it first.

Rep. Donna Shalala Highlights

On COVID vaccines

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

We didn’t order enough to get it out fast enough. And I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the new administration to just get more production up. They’ve got to get the Defense Production Act going, and they’ve got to talk to Pfizer about getting many more doses.

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

I’m not worried about the anti-vaxxers or people that say they don’t want the vaccine now. Not because I think the public health people are not going to make a good case for it. I think employers are going to make the case. I think to reopen the economy, restaurant owners, hotel owners, everybody who owns a business is going to say to their employees, “Hey, the only way you can get your jobs back, the only way we can open up is by all of us getting vaccinated.”

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

That’s the driving force behind the economy and us all getting back to work. You want to get out of your house? Get vaccinated. You want to get back to work? Get vaccinated.

On COVID funding going to state and local governments

Greta Van Susteren

Senator Rick Scott, a Republican … said to me that he objected to Florida taxpayer money going to bail out some states. I think he was probably pointing to New York and California ...What’s your view on that?

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

You know, we’re the United States of America. But the fact is, Californians contribute more taxes per person to the federal government through their corporations and everything else than they do in Florida. Florida is a state that gets more federal money than it pays in taxes. So, you have to be very careful as you’re talking about this when you’re identifying those northeastern states that are givers, as opposed to the takers that are complaining about this.

On the Trump administration’s COVID response

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

Look, we threw a lot of money and got vaccines in a historic short period of time, which we needed to do. We also needed to spend more money on PPE, on safety, on ventilators. And we didn’t do that in a systematic way.

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

The vaccine support run by the scientists has been very good. The rest of the Trump administration has fallen down on getting PPE distributed, getting the right number of ventilators. But more than anything else, getting people to wear masks. It’s patriotism, as far as I’m concerned, to wear a mask and to practice social distancing.

On the National Stockpile

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

During the Clinton administration, we did stockpile. But we assumed that this was going to be a flu pandemic, as opposed to a COVID pandemic. We did stockpile, and the later administrations ignored that and let it disappear.

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

Now, we have to put something in place in which we overbuy ... so that we’re ready for the next pandemic.

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Former HHS Secretary

This has been very sloppy, and we need to have a very smooth transition, because we’re going to get COVID-20 next.

Sen. Bill Cassidy Highlights

On Covid relief

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

I am working with a bipartisan group of senators and representatives to bring that relief. And this past week, for three weeks now, we’ve been meeting hours per week, trying to come up with a deal. Now our leadership has not yet bought into it, but we’re the only bipartisan game in town.

This is the one that has a second round of Payroll Protection Plan, additional unemployment benefits for those who have been laid off, more money for testing, more money for vaccine distribution. If you’re frustrated, call your Senator, call your representative, get them behind our bill.”

Greta Van Susteren

What are you telling the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

Well, our sticking point is liability protections. Now, if Democrats would accept Mitch McConnell’s liability protections, we’d have a deal. And if Mitch would accept the Democrats liability protections, we’d have a deal. That’s why we’re trying to work something that goes both ways.

Greta Van Susteren

Do you get sort of angry or very frustrated with the leadership on both sides of the aisle? Because they are really the ones in the room, sort of cutting the deal. And sort of the rank and file centers and members of Congress may not have as much input on this. Do you get frustrated with leadership?

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

Of course I get frustrated with leadership. I get frustrated anytime Congress is not doing what I perceive as necessary to get our country through this pandemic.

Hopefully this comes to fruition. Now at the end, if the leadership hasn’t negotiated, but we have, but it still passes. Who cares? We’ve got it out there. It’s helping the American people. That’s what matters.”

On the lockdown controversy

Greta Van Susteren

What about the lockdown controversy? A lot of people are really upset about it. Some people have said their jobs or their workplaces, businesses are closed for good. Where do you fall on this lockdown controversy?

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

So first, we need to keep our economy open. We cannot lock down completely, but we need to do it safely … When we begin to give the vaccines, we again need to let those people who are vaccinated go to the front of the line when interacting with the public. We’re doing that with the police, we’re doing that with firefighters, we’re doing it with teachers. We should also do it with the folks who have to wait on you in the restaurant. "

On the Hunter Biden controversy

Greta Van Susteren

Late this past week, a controversy over Hunter Biden has resurfaced. And apparently he’s been under investigation since about 2018. And the Department of Justice guidelines are such that they really make sure it’s kept under a lid and doesn’t leak because it might impact the election. They keep those investigations very quiet. They don’t release any information. Do you agree with those Department of Justice guidelines?

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

I do, because we’re all innocent until proven guilty. If you open an investigation on somebody, the people assume they’re guilty …. They shouldn’t be dragged before an election and they should still have the presumption of innocence.

Greta Van Susteren

Many of our Republican colleagues are pretty upset thinking that this should have come out.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

I can only speak for myself. I always think what if the shoe was on the other foot. I am so mad at what the FBI did, still mad with President Trump. I felt that was a little bit of a miscarriage. So I just want to live by the golden rule.”

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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