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tv   HHS Assistant Secretary Levine Discusses COVID Vaccinations  CSPAN  July 31, 2021 5:36am-6:07am EDT

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secretary levine: i want to emphasize the importance of our effort. our vaccinations against covid-19 are safe and effective. they are more important than ever to protect us from the spread of the delta variant. the pfizer vaccine is authorized for use for children. there are studies going on right now in younger children 5 thereby 12 and clinical trials being done from six months to five years of age. pfizer is ahead of the curve in terms of they are working to complete those studies. the moderna vaccine is sort of on its heels. we hope to have the completed clinical trials by the end of the year. but we'll be looking at the science. it's hard to put a date on when science -- scientific studies will be completed. we are hoping to have data by the end of the year for those younger folks. frances: that's encouraging though it seems a long time away as well. are you hearing of any evidence of negative side effects for these younger groups? rebecca: no. those clinical trials are proceeding as we speak. we would not expect to see a different safety profile than what we saw in teens for example. we'll await for the results of the trial. frances: until we get this younger group vaccinated, we all interact with younger children, will we be able to reach herd immunity? is that goal even relevant now that we are talking about this highly transmittable virus? rebecca: herd immunity is when
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public health officials. and that collaboration is how we will be most effective. >> i have a real question that will relates to this. and i think the question will come up on the screen. less likely to be transmitted outdoors and more likely to be transmitted indoors if you are in a tightly setting and it is a
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personal choice about the protection that you would like. >> i would like to ask you about president biden announced that federal employees should be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. is it sufficient to slow it particularly now that we have the delta variant? >> president biden issued a directive in terms of federal government employees. so federal government employees will be asked to assess their vaccination and they have not been vaccinated, they will be required to mask no matter where they are located and the recommendation is to go test once or twice a week and to socially distance and not be allowed tom travel for their work. we are taking these measures to protect the federal worker.
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we will continue to collect data and we get reports from other countries and particularly from great britain and we'll use it to inform our decision. >> you are in pennsylvania but you are a pediatrician by training and some of the questions are coming up about vaccinations for children. when do you expect to see vaccines become available for
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under 12? >> i want to emphasize about the importance of our vaccination efforts. our vaccinations against covid-19 are safe and effective and more important than ever to protect us from the spread of the delta variant. the pfizer vaccine for use in adolescence 12-17 and there are are studies going on right now in younger children, 5-12 and clinical trials for six months to five years of age. pfizer is ahead of the curve in terms of them working to complete those studies. the moderna vaccine is on their heals and we hope to have the clinical trials by the end of the year. we will be looking at the
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science and hard to put a date when scientific studies will be completed but hoping to have data at the end of the year for those younger folks. >> that is very encouraging. are you hearing of any evidence of negative side effects for these younger groups? >> no. most clinical trials are proceeding as we speak. but we would not expect to see a different safety profiles than we saw in 12-17. but. mr. williams: await the results of the clinical trials. >> the younger group and we interact with younger children. will we be able to reachheader immunity and is that relevant?
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the level of protection that you need depends upon how contagious the virus is. the amount of the population that would need to be immune would be higher, given the higher transmissibility of the delta variant. more contagious so you need a higher population. we don't know that number so we'll observe the data. the key point, however, is that it really depends upon our safe and effective vaccine. so we need people take that step and roll up their sleeve and get vaccinated and complete the series of the vaccinations. the pfizer and moderna vaccine
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do remember two doses. people need to do that to protect themselves. but also to protect their children. as we have been discussing. we do not have a vaccine for children under 12. so to protect their children, families, and communities we need people to step up, roll up their leaves and get their vaccinations. frances: i'd love for you to talk about pediatrician. parents are worried about their children. how do you address those concerns? the parents looking to sending their kids back to school this coming fall? secretary levine: sure. we really do want children to be back in the classroom this fall. we feel it is very important in terms of their education, but also the physical and mental health of children to be back in school. the ease of getting children
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safely back to school is our vaccination program. the more teens that are vaccinated that are 12 through 17, the more that their parents are vaccinated, the more their community is vaccinated, the safer it will be for those children as they enter school. but we do want children in k through 12 classes, as well as the teachers and staff, to wear masks given the transmissibility of this delta variant. frances: this was a change because at one point c.d.c. said they shouldn't have to wear masks. now that's changed, too. do you think that's going to be a consistent message now going ahead knowing what you do about the delta variant? secretary levine: we'll always have to change our messaging and
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guidance depending upon what we anticipate with this delta variant that that message will be consistent for the foreseeable future. frances: "the washington post" published numbers showing a triple, i think, in the number of cases in the last month. a tripling of the number of infections. what does that suggest to you about what the fall will look like? secretary levine: it will depend on the success of our vaccination program. we are seeing an increase in the number of people who are rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated. as we have talked about this delta variant is extremely dangerous. it is significantly more contagious, more transmissible than the previous forms of the virus. and there is evidence that it
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i think that the prospects for the fall could be very challenging. however, if we are able to continue to ramp up our vaccination program, that's the most important way to protect people in the fall. frances: another unsettling piece of news came from the c.d.c. director who thought the virus would only be a few mutations away from the variant that could
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potentially escape vaccines. how does that inform your thinking going ahead and how should it inform messaging to people who are still hesitant? secretary levine: whenever the virus has significant immunity spread in transmission, there are lots of cases, then you can see the development, the variant that has to do with how the virus develops. so the way to actually decrease the amount of variants that we would see would be to increase our vaccination program in the united states and increase the vaccination programs across the world. i think it should inform people about the importance of getting vaccinated now. we have a tremendous safety record with these vaccines. almost 350 million doses of the vaccines have been given in the united states. and thousands millions more across the country. they have a remarkable safety profile. we know that they are effective against the delta variant in terms of people getting very sick, in terms of being hospitalized, etc. now is the time for people to get vaccinated. that's the best way to protect against the development of these variants. frances: are vaccines really the only way we'll stop this thing from spreading? secretary levine: there are three tools in our public health toolbox. since the beginning of the pandemic, i have been saying this in pennsylvania and now nationally, the first is containment. containment means significant rates of testing and then notification of those that are positive in contact tracing, finding out who they are contacts are, and isolation and quarantine. that's the way to contain the virus. the second tool in our toolbox is mitigation. mitigation includes, for example, the masking recommendations that we just
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came out with. previous recommendation that is limited the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings, etc. mitigation is very challenging for people, but it can be very effective. anti-third are medicines. one is the most important is our safe and effective vaccinations. the other i'd like to emphasize are actually medicines such as monoclonal antibodies for the virus itself. we have a safe and effective mono clonal antibodies that can be given to people who have the virus t needs to be given early, especially for those who might be more susceptible to getting very, very ill from the virus. seniors, those with -- or immunosuppressed, those who have other medical conditions. for example, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, etc. those are the three tools. containment, mitigation, and medical ultrameasures so to speak. so those are the tools that we
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have to battle covid-19. frances: i'm glad you raised the medical community. i have question not only about the use of medicine but the role of physicians in getting people vaccinated which i think is growing. is there more the medical community with its authority should be doing to move us ahead and to counteract the spread? secretary levine: there are several different ways that we partner with the medical community. we have regular communications with the medical community. as well as our state, local, and other public health officials throughout the country. one is that, our medical community are on the frontlines. they are nurses and doctors and other medical providers that are seeing patients in doctor's offices and clinics and doing something. as well as seeing patients that are very ill and in the hospital. they are medical heroes. i think it's also really
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important for the medical community to be talking about the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccines and to be giving vaccinations. we are working with more and more members of the medical community to be giving vaccinations, doctor's offices, clinics, hospital clinics, pharmacies. our pharmacists have been giving millions and millions of doses of vaccinations. the other point i would like to emphasize, other people on the frontline who deserve our respect and support are our public health officials. they are on the frontline, too. local public health officials, state public health officials, the epidemiologists, the public health workers that are working at all levels to protect our health. they deserve our thanks, our respect as well. frances: the biden administration put from the word go enormous emphasis on getting people vaccinated. it was clear early on there would be early adopters and then a slowing of this of the uptake. can you talk about the measures
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the biden administration is looking at or have adopted to reach the people who are sometimes hesitant and i think now hostile to the vaccine? secretary levine: i think it is important to recognize that we have seen progress over the last six or more months under president biden's leadership. there have been administered totally almost 350 million vaccinations. 160 million americans are fully vaccinated. including 80% of seniors. and approximately 69% of adults. but this delta variant is different and it requires a lot. one thing we are doing is we are -- the president has actually recommended and calling on state and local governments to use funding that they have received, including funding from the american rescue plan, to offer
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$100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated. a financial incentive. other states have lotteries, etc. i think that those are very innovative. they are not sufficient but they are innovative approach. we are working across the nation to make sure that there are tens of thousands of vaccination sites throughout the united states. 90% of people have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live. we are looking for people to get vaccinated at pharmacies, to get vaccinated at clinics, at doctor's offices, at hospitals. and we are actually asking schools now to work with their local and state health departments to have school clinics -- vaccination clinics, at least one but many maybe school pop-up vaccination clinics. so we want local and state health officials, as well as pharmacy program partners to
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work with school districts to host these clinics. we are looking in different ways to try to make it more accessible for people to get their safe and effective vaccines. frances: you mentioned how public health officials are on the frontline. perhaps as never before. there has been legislative backlash across the country in many states against the perceived overreach of governors and public health officials. how do you address that? you started at a state level, are you working at a federal level. are we making ourself more vulnerable with the potential surge this fall and even to the next pandemic whatever that may be in the future by rolling back on some of this legislation? secretary levine: i think it has been very challenging throughout the course of the covid-19 pandemic that often this has been solidified. i think the politization of this public health crisis has made our public health response more
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challenging. this is not a political issue. this is not an issue of freedom of expression. or freedom of speech. this is a public health issue. so we all have a collective responsibility to ourselves, to our families, to our communities, and to our nation to work with medical and public health officials throughout the country to stem the spread of this dangerous virus and now this even more covid-19 delta variant. any type of political actions which limit the ability of public health to do its job are counter. frances: coercion and incentives all can have a backlash and the republican governor of south carolina recently said pressuring people seemed like bad policy. does he have a point? secretary levine:: we want to offer whatever incentives we can.
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most important thing is to provide accurate information about covid-19, about the delta variant, about its significant risks to our communities, the risks to our children, especially as they enter school, and we hope that providing that accurate information, that is actually the best way to convince people to get our safe and effective vaccine. we have to counter disinformation. disinformation in social media, for example. our wonderful surgeon general has had a campaign over the last two weeks emphasizing how important it is for us to counter that misinformation and for us to transmit accurate information that can lead to the best outcome. frances: let me read you a tweet from texas congressman crenshaw. he said, addressing the president, how about you don't knock on my door? he's talking about vaccinations.
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are you not my parents, you are the government. how can you counter that sense that the government is intervening in parts of people's lives that they feel are private? secretary levine:: we are not actually knocking on doors. the statement was to describe that we want to engage people throughout the nation in terms of the accurate information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. that's what we are going to try to do. we are going to talk with local, state, federal public health officials. we want to work with community members. that is the purpose of the community corps. the covid-19 community corps so that actually local respected community members can speak to their communities about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines so people make the right decision to get vaccinations. again for themselves but also for their children, their families, and their communities. frances: doctor, during this
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covid-19 epidemic we have seen a drop in life expectancy, rises in anxiety and depression, and also in drug overdoses. how can you address those factors which are clearly to do with covid but also beyond them, are we neglecting other problems as we focus on covid? secretary levine: it's critically important to know that actually local, state, and federal public health officials are really our offices are dealing with the entire spectrum of public health issues we always dealt. in terms of mental health and substance use disorders, that's a very, very important point. c.d.c. data indicates that in 2020 we had the highest rate ever of deaths from drug overdoses. 93,000 deaths in drug overdoses. i think that is related to the significant mental health issues
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that have been triggered by covid-19 and the pandemic. we are going to address that head-on at the department of health and human services with secretary becerra's leadership. he has reinitiated our behavioral health coordinating council. i'm very pleased to co-chair that with the assistant secretary for samhsa. we have communities that will be looking at substance use and overdoses. we'll have committees look at how to expand treatment. the integration of physical and mental health in health clinics and doctor's offices and hospitals. the importance of telemedicine now in terms of behavioral health and substance use treatment. we are going to be looking at all of those different factors to be able to address the significant mental health issues that we are seeing now and we are likely to see in the future. frances: how about the rise in homicides across the country?
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secretary levine: we are seeing a rise in homicides. and the president has spoken out about that in terms of firearms and firearm safety. i'll leave that to the president. but he has spoken out about the importance of -- and the significance of firearms from a public health perspective. frances: doctor, before we finish i would like to ask you about your own personal story. you are the first openly transgender person to hold such high office in this country. you have been in this job for four months. how has it been? secretary levine: it is going very well, thank you. as you can see i'm in my office in washington. we certainly have been very busy. i'm focusing, of course, covid-19, and all of the issues that we have been discussing. i'm also focusing on the mental health and substance use issues that we have been talking about. as i mentioned i'm co-chair of the behavioral health
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coordinating council. that's been a long-standing focus of my career. health equity in general is a --an issue we'll could he fuss on. i'm a member of the covid-19 equity task force, we are meeting today, this afternoon. but health equity prospects everything we are doing. we are going to be form agnew office. this new office is going to be focusing on climate change and health equity. and environmental -- for example, the issues of heat, of the severe heat we are seeing in the united states. of course impacts some communities more than others. it is a significant health equity issue. we'll be forming a new office to focus on that. frances: assistant secretary levine, i am so pleased you were able to join me. thank you so much. secretary levine: thank you so much.
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pleasure to be here. frances: i think we all learned a lesson. i love ending on that note about health equity. that's all we have time for. if you want to hear about future programming, please go to washingtonpostlive.com where you'll see an exciting lineup of upcoming programs. ♪
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third, deputy press secretary -- >> deputy press secretary karine john pierre answered questions on covid-19 mandates and conflicting information from the white house and the cdc regarding the delta variant. she also addressed the united states policy toward cuba, the eviction moratorium and voting rights. this is about 45 minutes.

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