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Second Vaccine Trial; Interview with Georgia Senate Candidate (D) Jon Ossoff. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 16, 2020 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. TAL ZAKS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: I'm optimistic that you'll see our vaccine be deployed and help prevent COVID-19 and many people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (Voice-over): A second vaccine trial for COVID-19 showing signs of success and more light at the end of the tunnel. As research continues, I
asked Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about this milestone. And I speak to vaccine trial volunteer our Walter Isaacson about his
experience and why he did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF, US SENATE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: Change has come to Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (Voice-over): The balance of power in the US Senate now rests with the state of Georgia. I speak to Democratic nominee John Ossoff about this
high stakes race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's pretty clear that at least half a million Americans will die before the end of this pandemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (Voice-over): As cases increase at a record speed, our Hari Sreenivasan talks to Yale Professor and Physician Nicholas Christakis about
his new book "Apollo's Arrow," and the impact of the Coronavirus on all our lives.
AMANPOUR (on-camera): Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. And it is the way we all want to start the week with a
bit of good news, early data on a second promising coronavirus vaccine. The American company Moderna announced today the results so far are showing it
to be 94.5% effective. And here's what its Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tal Zaks says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKS: I am very happy that our vaccine has been able to demonstrate very strong immunogenicity across all age groups so we don't lose potency. As we
look at least the phase one data, you see the same level of an immune response across both younger and older adults.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (Voice-over): This just a week after Pfizer shared the successful early results of its own trials. And these are difficult times as
infections increase at unprecedented speed in the United States with now over 11 million cases and nearly 250,000 deaths, while Europe continues to
see record numbers and the British Prime Minister self isolates again, after a meeting with an infected MP. You'll remember that he was
hospitalized with COVID-19 back in April.
Now, of course, the question on everyone's mind when will life return to normal? My first guest tonight is Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth
Cohen. And she joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. And, Elizabeth, that was obviously your interview with Moderna's chief medical officer. Just how
exciting is this, it's the second now?
ELIZABETH COHEN, SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very exciting. I mean, Cristiane, people were hoping, experts were hoping for a vaccine
that was maybe 60% effective, 70% if we got lucky, 80% was like a pipe dream. But look what happened. We have two vaccines that are more than 90%
effective, and where they didn't see any serious side effects.
I mean, people had headaches or body aches, but nothing really bad. That is really quite incredible.
AMANPOUR: And can you tell me, Elizabeth? Explain how it works. We understand it's RNA-based, what exactly does that mean?
COHEN: Right. So a lot of times we think of vaccines is you give someone like a sort of a weakened version of the virus, and then you make -- and
then your body launches an immune attack. And that's how your body learns. Oh, OK, this is a foreign invader. Here's how to attack it.
Instead, what this does is that, this vaccine, and Pfizer's works the same way. Moderna and Pfizer are basically identical. It sends in a little piece
of messenger RNA. That is basically a blueprint, a recipe for making the spike that sits at the top of the coronavirus. If you ever see that
picture, those little red flower like things.
So it tells -- it gives instructions for making that spike. Your body sees the spike. It learns how to fight it. So then, when you get the real virus,
your antibodies will be ready.
Now, Cristiane, there's never been a vaccine on the market that uses this mRNA, this messenger RNA technology. So if this gets approved and are
authorized, this will be a first.
AMANPOUR: It is amazing. I mean, we're really seeing it happening very, very fast. Now, I just want to ask you, you know, when Pfizer's came out,
you know, when the early results came out. There was a lot of talk about, you know, storage, how it had to be kept at a really, really low
temperature. And that might, you know, might have some issues, particularly in the hot parts of the world and the poor parts of the world.
Tell me about this one. Does it require the same temperature?
COHEN: It actually doesn't. This one only requires negative minus 20 degrees Celsius. And at least in the United States, and I'm sure in other
parts of the world as well, there are freezers that go that low.
You have one in your house. I have one in my house. It's just how you keep ice cream. So doctor's offices, pharmacists, they have this freezer
already. They don't have to invent something new.
Pfizer's is very different. There's this minus 75 degrees Celsius. Doctor's offices and pharmacies, again, at least in the US, do not have freezers
that go that low, so you have to work with dry ice and do all this other kinds of stuff. It gets very complicated, somewhat prone to error,
according to state officials and doctors and nurses who I've talked to you. So yes, there was definitely a sense of relief that this one doesn't have
that kind of requirement.
AMANPOUR: And again, rollout. Everybody also talks about how many millions, hundreds of millions of doses will have to be made, that you perhaps need
to two shots. And obviously, Dr. Fauci is really involved with a lot of this. I think he worked along with Moderna on this. This is what he said to
NBC about this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have two vaccines that are really quite effective. So I think
this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So control of this outbreak. That's what everybody wants to know about, especially given the news that we've just reported. It's just
galloping along this COVID. What about the rollout?
COHEN: So the rollout at least in the United States is going -- it's going to be over a period of at least six months. So Dr. Fauci, who I talked to
you last night, said he thinks that high risk people, elderly people, health care workers, et cetera, could start getting vaccines in the second
part of December. But he said, it won't be until the end of April that people who are not in high risk groups, in other words, you're not elderly.
You don't have an underlying medical condition.
Those folks won't be getting it, he said, till the end of April. And that will take April, May, June, July, that will take months. So we're not
getting, you know, I want everyone to sort of be, have a real picture here. We're not going to have a vaccine and snap your fingers. This is under
control and life goes back to normal. That is not the case at all.
Now, we've, hopefully, gotten over one hurdle, which is that this is a very effective vaccine. So you don't need as many people to get it to get this
under control, because it is or appears to be so effective in this early data. But still, it is going to take a long time to vaccinate all the
people who need to be vaccinated.
AMANPOUR: It is incredible. But what else did Dr. Fauci said? I noticed that, you know, you said you spoke to him last night. He's always so, you
know, he's the oracle. What else did he say about this, about what we should expect beyond what you've just told me?
COHEN: And so he said, what he told the NBC this morning, which is that he's very excited about this. I mean, I think that he, as you mentioned,
has been working with Moderna on their vaccine less so with Pfizer, and to see results of over 90%.
You know, he did say something interesting, I mentioned that mRNA is this new technology. And he said, Elizabeth, there have been a lot of skeptics
out there like, really, we're going to put out a vaccine to, you know, try to get rid of or help get rid of this pandemic. And we're trusting that to
new technology that's never been on the market before. And he said, hopefully, this addresses those skeptics, because these two trials, so two
completely independent trials by two completely different companies, you know, got these incredible over 90% effectiveness rates.
AMANPOUR: And one last question, because, you know, I noted what you said that maybe not so many people would have to take it if it's that effective.
But obviously, the vaccine hesitant or the anti-vaxxers, I mean, the skeptics who have basically told everybody that, you know, the pollsters
that they don't want to take it. How much of a heavy lift is that going to be do you think?
COHEN: You know, with these polls, as you said, have shown that many people don't want to get the COVID vaccine. In the United States, even as many as
50% of people in the US have said, I don't want to get this part of it, was sort of the unfortunate name of Operation Warp Speed. That's the effort to
develop and to distribute a vaccine. And Operation Warp Speed, I think when the Trump administration gave that name, they thought it was brilliant,
right? Hey, we're going to make this happen quick.
Well, Americans and people around the world, they don't want quick when you're trying to shoot something into their arm. They want to make sure
that it's safe. So that name for sure did not help in order to help the President Trump kept saying we'll have a vaccine before Election Day,
which, of course, didn't happen.
The thinking is, is that as hesitant as people are now hopefully, once they see people start to get vaccines. They'll see their grandmother get
vaccinated, their doctor will get vaccinated, a policeman will get vaccinated, firefighters. Hopefully, once they see that they'll think, oh,
OK, well, they seem to have done pretty well. So hopefully this hesitancy will be converted to enthusiasm, if indeed this all goes well.
AMANPOUR: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much, indeed, for that. And as we say goodbye to you and move on to our Walter Isaacson, I just want to show
this picture of Elvis Presley. When you talk about people learning about it seeing about it, he, way back when decades ago, publicly was vaccinated
with the polio vaccination, you know, all those years ago.
And that went quite a long way to persuading other people that it was OK.
Now, behind every vaccine, there is also a volunteer. And you will know this one because he's our own Walter Isaacson. Master biographer of great
minds in science and history as well, and more used to interviewing than being interviewed. But he's joining me now from New York to share the rare
experience of being a guinea pig for the Pfizer trials.
Walter, welcome to your program. Tell me what made you do this.
WALTER ISAACSON, JOURNALIST AND PROFESSOR: I'm writing a book that comes out in March on Jennifer Doudna. And the people who created this gene
editing technology called CRISPR. And it's based on RNA.
So RNA became kind of my favorite molecule. And when I heard that Pfizer's along with Moderna were creating vaccines that are very similar to how
CRISPR developed, which is a system bacteria used to fight viruses. I said, Hey, I'm going to learn to do by doing. I'm going to sign up. I was in New
Orleans, my hometown, pretty easy. You go online, sign up. The next day, they called me.
And it's a way to get involved in science. It's a way just like jury duty is to do something. It's far less hassle, believe me, than jury duty, to do
something where you can get involved.
AMANPOUR: We were all nervous. I mean, you just had a conversation with Elizabeth Cohen, you know, there are people who are a little bit nervous.
Were you scared at any point?
ISAACSON: No, not at all nor was anybody. I mean, that 44,000 people have been part of this trial. I just, you know, it's not a small number. And
there's no way that there would have been a safety thing where you could have gotten COVID from it, since it's simply a piece of RNA. Plus, every
night they monitor you by cell phone, if you're in the trial. And with all these people doing it, there were no cases of serious side effects.
So, I think I was a little bit more worried about driving down Jefferson Highway dock in the hospital to get into the trial than I was worried about
getting the shot in my arm.
AMANPOUR: That's really interesting because, again, oh gosh, the number of people who say they're scared of taking it when it comes out. So, do you
know whether you got the actual, you know, vaccine or did you get the placebo?
ISAACSON: I don't know. I mean, you could try to find out by antibody test. But I want to play it by the rules, do what you're supposed to be doing. So
they made me look away. There were two doctors in the room and one of them said to me, she looked at me and said, looked me in the eyes. And I was
doing it. She had very blue eyes like a hospital mask.
And when I started to turn away and look at the needle, she said, no, no, no. Look at me. I said, well, would I be able to tell just by looking at
the syringe? She said no, probably not, but we're very strict so that you don't know.
Now, they did promise us that once something is authorized, they'll unblind us. Otherwise, you know, we just drop out of the trial if they refuse to
unblind us, and people wouldn't do trials anymore. So you get this assurance that if there's an authorization for this vaccine, they'll tell
you whether you got the placebo or not. And you'll be not first in line, but you'll be there ready to get the real vaccine when it happens.
And I think that makes people confident. Yes, let's join these trials. I'm not going to be a pure guinea pig. And also it helps a trial work well,
because if they didn't unblind us we'd all just quit the trial and take another vaccine, as opposed to staying in the trial and continuing to give
AMANPOUR: Now, look, you know, you're not just an ordinary citizen. You've done so much study and research into science, your books, your biographies.
You've just mentioned the book you're writing about the founder of CRISPR. What do you feel about the history of vaccine hesitancy and the spike I
suppose these days?
ISAACSON: You know, throughout our history, we've had citizen involvement in science. And, you know, when you talk about the polio vaccine, you know,
I'm old enough to remember the March of Dimes, where we all chipped in to make sure everybody could get that vaccine. And what people like Elvis made
sure they showed themselves getting the vaccine.
And, boy, down in New Orleans, there was no question that you're going to get that vaccine because you couldn't go to swimming pools or anything
without fear. I think it's also something important now, which is that people are a little bit intimidated by science. And in some ways, our
society has become a bit, not just intimidated, but sometimes anti-science.
So it's important for all of us to feel connected to think, like we try to understand maybe our computer so we can be connected to the digital
revolution. We should find ways we can connect to this biotech revolution.
And by being part of a clinical trial, which is totally safe and doesn't take up much time, you engage with science in a way that both reassures
you, But you feel a little bit less alienated from the science. And I think that's one of the great problems of modern times is, it's not just the
citizens fault that they're skeptical of science. But in some ways, science hasn't been open enough to let people participate in the science.
And the coolest, easiest way to participate as a citizen in science is just go online, not just for the coronavirus vaccine, but there's, you know,
once I signed up, they were offering me dozens of clinical trials I could be part of. Sign up for clinical trial, it's really good and sign up with
AMANPOUR: That's good advice. And actually, on this program, we reported on a lot of youngsters here in Britain, who wanted to do that and do their bit
as well. But let me ask you about the mRNA aspect to all of this. I talked a little bit about it with Elizabeth, what is the big breakthrough,
historically, as far as you're concerned with this type of vaccine?
ISAACSON: Here is what is huge. It's just a piece of genetic code. And in the future, kids who know how to play with genetic code are going to
supplant those who play with digital code. Why, because with these RNA vaccines, it fights this COVID-19. But let's suppose another virus comes
along, and it will in the next year or two or three years, there's another coronavirus or any type of virus that comes along.
This can be easily reprogrammed. All you have to do is get the genetic sequence of the new virus, and a college biology student in a lab, in one
day, can do the reprogramming of this sequence. So you get a new vaccine to fight any new virus that comes along. And that's what we need in this, you
know, we feel like we're in the Middle Ages with wave after wave of recurring virus attacks, you know, MERS, and SARS, and COVID.
Here, with RNA exams, you won't have to spend a lot of time. And you can, by the way, reprogram these RNA type vaccines to do other things, even
detect cancer. That's what CRISPR is all about, which is the subject of my book, "The Code Breaker" is coming out in March, which is it can do things
like edit our genes, it can fight cancer, and now we know it can fight viruses and be reprogrammed to fight each new wave of virus.
AMANPOUR: Tell me more about Jennifer Doudna. Obviously, she won the Nobel Prize with her colleague for chemistry because of this CRISPR technology.
What more are you finding out that we haven't known in the public domain yet?
ISAACSON: It's a wonderful tale of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, her partner, who was born in Paris, figuring out how to use
CRISPR, which as I said, is simply a piece of RNA connected to a scissors, an enzyme that can cut DNA. And now, they figured out how to target it. So
if you have a gene say for sickle cell anemia, it can be edited out. The Chinese scientist couple years ago used it unauthorized in order to make
designer babies that wouldn't be susceptible to AIDS.
What happened when they did it, and then another wonderful guy named Feng Zhang is at the Broad Institute at Harvard. They also all figured out how
you do it in human cells. And there was a big competition between the two. It was a race to figure it out. And then, there's still a patent battle.
But the interesting thing about the COVID pandemic is both camps, as well as other people said, now that we know this technology, we're going to not
compete with one another but put a intellectual property in public so we can make detection kits. I mean, this is going to come along in the next
few weeks. It'll be just as interesting, which is simple, CRISPR based detection kits that will detect that coronavirus, or for that matter, any
other genetic problem you may have.
These will be the type of tests you can put on your kitchen counter. You know, just almost like a pregnancy test with a little strip. That too will
bring science into our lives. Because just like the iPhone, people will be creating apps for these new CRISPR-based tests so they won't only test for
coronavirus. They might test for your gut biome and what your -- or for cancer.
So this is a whole new age of biotechnology, that CRISPR, and the use of this wonderful molecule RNA. You know, it's sibling, DNA, used to get all
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed,
ISAACSON: DNA is certainly the nucleus of a cell and doesn't do anything, whereas RNA actually goes to work and takes instructions and goes to the
protein making part of the cell.
AMANPOUR: DNA, I'm going to stand up. I'm going to stand up for DNA, important forensic tool as well. But before I let you go, I want to ask you
about, you know, you've interviewed at least two of the members of the Biden task force on coronavirus. And I just want to play this heartbreaking
sound bite from a nurse in an over strapped hospital in South Dakota. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODI DOERING, SOUTH DAKOTA EMERGENCY: Yes, I think the hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else. And they want a
magic answer. And they don't want to believe that COVID is real. And their last dying words are, this can't be happening. It's not real.
And when they should be spending time facetiming their families, they're filled with anger and hatred. And it just made me really sad the other
night. And I just can't believe that those are going to be their last thoughts and words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Do you think a new administration can change the tone because that is tragic?
ISAACSON: Absolutely. And I think that's the most important thing, even with these vaccines, it would be good to have this administration figure
out a way to how to get them distributed, where you go on a website and sign up for when you're going to take it and where. But the most important
thing is to restore faith in facts and in science. And this goes back to what I was saying about we should all find ways to connect as citizens to
Joe Biden did that when he run the cancer task force, and he did it when his son, Beau, tragically succumb to cancer. It made him understand the
science better. I hope we can do that in ways that are less tragic than the clip you just showed or what Joe Biden had to go through. Whereas if we all
feel connected to science, we'll make more rational decisions.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's really important. Walter Isaacson, thank you so much.
ISAACSON: Thank you. Now, there is a recount underway in Georgia's presidential vote. The Secretary of State says though there are no concerns
about fraud have surface, and the count could be done by Wednesday. If it confirms Joe Biden's victory, it would turn blue for the first time since
1992. But will that be the same in the Senate races?
Jon Ossoff is the Democratic nominee in a runoff against sitting Republican Senator David Perdue. If he were to win, along with fellow Democrat,
Raphael Warnock, in January, it would flip the Senate from Republican to Democrat. And Jon Ossoff is joining me now from Atlanta.
Welcome to the program, Mr. Ossoff. What do you think? I mean, do you think lightning could strike twice? You know, it looks like the state will flip
blue in the presidential, but what about in the Senate races?
OSSOFF: Christiane, thank you for the opportunity to be with you. It's an honor. And it's really not a matter of lightning striking, it's a decade of
work here; registering voters, organizing communities, mobilizing turnout, extraordinary turnout among black voters in Georgia. Work over this decade,
much of it led by Stacey Abrams to expand the electorate here, and work that's continuing now.
We are running the largest voter registration, get out to vote effort, in American history in Georgia right now, because the stakes are so high.
Because for this incoming administration, to be able to empower public health experts, resource a robust public health response and invest in
economic recovery, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will need to be able to govern and not to be mired in partisan gridlock in Washington. And that's
why the Senate is so vital.
AMANPOUR: Of course, I understand that from your point of view. I just want to ask you, because you mentioned Stacey Abrams and, obviously, she's
getting a huge amount of gratitude and recognition from this amazing voter turnout. Are you working with her now? And I guess, you know, in
experience, you've obviously studied runoffs and all the rest of it. Can people be motivated a second time to come out in the kinds of numbers that
they did the first time?
OSSOFF: Well, first of all, yes, Stacey is a close friend and she's heavily engaged and working hard to ensure that we win these two runoffs. And to
your second question, this really is about momentum, and energy and enthusiasm. And we haven't had a robustly contested runoff election for a
federal office in Georgia in over a decade.
But Joe Biden's victory here and all of the work that I just discussed has put the wind in our sails. We've hit the ground running. I just finished a
seven city four-day tour of the state. The enthusiasm is off the charts. It's all about continuing the work of getting out to vote and registering
new voters. There are 23,000 young voters, for example, who become eligible to vote just between November 3rd and this January 5th runoff.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's interesting. You said there hasn't been this kind of a runoff for about a decade apparently, historically, runoffs in Georgia
tend to favor Republicans.
I think, if I'm not mistaken, you are 90,000 votes short of your challenger or the person you're challenging, the sitting Senator David Perdue. He
doesn't want to debate you. He didn't in the first, you know, the first go round. What do you make of that? And do you -- is there a way? I mean, you
know, he doesn't have to, I guess, go to a debate, would you prefer for there to be one?
OSSOFF: I certainly would. And yes, this was the closest US Senate race in the country. And my argument to Senator Perdue is that, if he doesn't want
to debate in the public forum, if he doesn't want to have a robust discussion of the issues and contrast our visions for the future of the
state and this country at a moment of profound crisis, when nearly a quarter of a million Americans have died from this virus. With hundreds of
thousands of lives, and millions of jobs, and homes and livelihoods hanging in the balance, if he doesn't want to come out and have a debate about the
path forward, that's fine, but he shouldn't be seeking reelection to the US Senate.
I believe that public servants have a solemn obligation to engage publicly, in discourse and debate. We should contrast our visions and our
qualifications, and our records and take that directly to the people for them to decide. He seems to lack the self-confidence to debate me in
public. He seems to feel entitled to this Senate seat without having to go and discuss our contrasting visions in an open forum. I think that's wrong
and I think it's not going to serve him well in the upcoming election.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play one of his campaign ads, because it goes to what you're talking about, but it targets you specifically on issues and
we'll talk about them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No negotiation, total Democratic control, that's their goal. Their plan, increase taxes, defund the police, past the Green New
Deal, opened the borders, give voting rights to illegal immigrants, eliminate private health insurance, cut the military, make DC a state, and
have the Supreme Court. If they're in charge, America will never be the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, that's a lot of, you know, cannon fire, so to speak. How do you, I guess, answer each one or do you not? I mean, for instance,
would you eliminate private insurance to support Medicare for all?
OSSOFF: No, I wouldn't. And I don't support single payer health care. But more to the point, this is just paint by numbers, partisan invective. This
is the kind of fear mongering. This is the kind of divisive, hateful politics that the American people have just overwhelmingly rejected.
Biden defeated Trump by the largest popular vote margin for a challenger for the presidency, since Roosevelt defeated Hoover in 1932. And what we
should be discussing is, how we chart a course out of this pandemic, how we invest in economic recovery, how we ensure that families in Georgia and
across the country have the basics that they need to flourish health care, housing, dignified work that pays a living wage, equal justice under the
law. That's the kind of campaign that I'm running.
And I don't pay much mind, Christiane, to these partisan attack ads that are cooked up in boardrooms in Washington. They're the same across the
entire country. They're totally out of touch with the needs and concerns of the people of my state, who are looking at this rapidly accelerating
pandemic, and want results, want public health experts be empowered.
As you know, we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, here in Georgia. I'm looking forward to working with Joe Biden to
ensure the CDC as a resource to lead the epidemiological response to this pandemic, to make investments in infrastructure and clean energy to
jumpstart our economy. And then, to pursue a broader program to ensure that every American family has great health care, to ensure that families can
pursue college education without taking on debt, to expand opportunity, equal justice, civil rights and voting rights.
That's the kind of campaign that I'm running. And I don't pay much mind to this kind of fear mongering, which I think has been decisively rejected by
the American people on this election.
AMANPOUR: Do you have -- of all, you know, of all the issues and all the important ones, the economy and health care and the others that you are you
are pursuing. I mean, do you see an area where you put most of your focus? I mean, given the first round of elections, you now know, I guess, what
people are voting on. Where do you want to put most of your emphasis as you appeal to Georgians for their vote?
OSSOFF: Well, in the short run, we have to be focused on how we end this crisis, restore some normalcy to daily life. Millions of American families
are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, without their families. And families across the country and indeed around the world are approaching this holiday
season, knowing that they won't be able to spend it with loved ones in the same way to which we're accustom because this virus is spreading out of
control. So I'm focused on what we need to do to equip public health experts to implement an evidence and science-based approach to containing
this pandemic and then how we invest in economic recovery when there is so much suffering across the country.
And the issue is that the American people want to hear their leaders talk about and deliver on are the same issues that human beings everywhere are
concerned with, and they are those basic conditions of human flourishing, which are universal. Health care, housing, education, a living wage, equal
justice. I believe that people everywhere -- and I learned this from my mentor, Congressman John Lewis, and we see it every day across my state --
they just want the basics and deserve a need the basics out of life, the opportunity to build wealth for their families, to pursue enlightenment and
education and opportunity, to live healthy lives free of the burden of massive debt. It's not complicated, the kind of society that we need to and
As we turn the page on this hate-filled and divisive Trump era, we have to pursue national healing, national reconciliation, become grounded again in
the what brings us together as Americans and pursue that kind of optimistic vision for our country that can heal those wounds and give us a clear
direction forward for the next 4, 10, and 20 years.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you because I do think it's fascinating that John Lewis is your mentor. What a great and towering figure. And I know that you
interned for him and I know that he endorsed you when you ran for Congress a couple of years ago. But to widen out the lenses you're doing right now,
you know, President-Elect Biden has made a lot of, you know, promises and, as you say, to try to narrow this divide and try to deal with the pandemic
and the economy and bring, you know, healing to a very shattered nation perimeter, what will happen to his program if you don't win and if Raphael
Warnock doesn't win and the Senate stays in the hands of our majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has yet shown little aptitude for
bipartisanship? Could that change with Biden who has a much more, you know, consensus building gene in him, so to speak?
OSSOFF: I think we know who Mitch McConnell is, and for the global audience that I know watches this show, the Senate majority leader, the Republican
leader who dedicated himself to foiling President Obama at every turn, who consistently puts party over country, he'll do the same thing to Joe Biden
and Kamala Harris if he has the power to. He will obstruct their efforts to invest in economic recovery. He will obstruct their efforts to control this
pandemic. We will have gridlock in Washington. And it will be much harder to bring this country together again. And those are the stakes of these
You know, the United States is turning the page on the Trump era. He's leaving, whether he knows it or not. And now, we're full of hope because we
have the opportunity to define the next era in American history and it should be one rooted in the unity, it should be one rooted in the
principles Congressman Lewis Taught, of the beloved community, of a recognition that we're all one people, we're all sisters and brothers.
Those aren't empty words, that's the basis of community, that's the basis of a shared national and human identity upon which we build a society where
everyone has access to health care and housing and education and a living wage and equal justice.
I really believe that is a vision that can bring this country back together. And the reason that these runoff elections in Georgia are so
vital is that in order for us to heal, in order for us to emerge from this crisis healthy and strong and prosperous and united, we can't have four
years of unmitigated partisan gridlock in Washington, and that's what I'm fighting for in Georgia, is to solve these problems to deliver a public
health response, to deliver economic recovery so we can get out of this mess, come back together as a people and build a stronger and more
prosperous and united country.
AMANPOUR: You know, you say that, and I wonder -- and this is just an observation, you know, so clearly, you know, people voted for Joe Biden and
Kamala Harris on the presidential ticket, and I wonder if they, you know, voted so much Republican on the down ballots precisely to have more,
whatever, gridlock or whatever it is that, you know, sort of a balance.
You know, we said that -- we reached out to David Perdue to ask him these questions as well and he didn't respond, he didn't want to come on our
program. So, I'm going play a little of what of your fellow Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, has said about accusations that they just want
to -- you all want to turn the Senate over into special interest territory. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA: I'll tell you what's on the ballot. Health care is on the ballot. Access to affordable health
care. We've got 500,000 Georgians in the Medicaid gap. We've got 1.8 million Georgians with preexisting conditions. And if Kelly Loeffler has
her way, people who have asthma, people who have hypertension and diabetes, these are folks in my family and in my church, folks who are survivors of
cancer, may find themselves without health care, and that's what this race is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So very, very quickly, Jon Ossoff. You seem to be on the same page on this issue.
OSSOFF: Yes, and the reason that American politicians like my opponent, David Perdue, persist in, for example, trying to deny people with
preexisting conditions like asthma and heart disease and hypertension access to health care is because of the underlying corruption in our
political system, the citizens united decision which allows unlimited secret corporates spending on politics. That's why insurance and
pharmaceutical companies and major polluting industries write the rules in Washington.
And if we don't reform that campaign finance system, we'll be unable to deliver on insuring that everyone has great health care, the kind of
environmental protection and investment in clean energy we need to control the climate crisis and a whole range of other measures necessary to uphold
and defend the public interest.
AMANPOUR: So much at stake. Jon Ossoff, thank you very much for joining us.
And as we said earlier, COVID cases in the U.S. crossed the 11 million mark over the weekend, reaching yet another grim milestone. And our next guest
is in a unique position to understand the virus and its ripple effects on society. Nicholas Christakis is a physician, sociologist and a former
hospice doctor. His latest book, "Apollo's Arrow," explores what it means to live amid a plague like this. Here he is speaking to our Hari
Sreenivasan about all of this and about what he thinks President-Elect Biden must do to restore confidence in institutions.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. And Nicholas Christakis, welcome back.
I mean, you were the first person that I spoke to from my bedroom studio when this all started in March. At the time, we were perhaps stunned to
hear a prediction of 35,000 people who might be victims of COVID-19, and here we are now past 250,000 people in the United States that have died
from this. Something that you say in this new book that you've written, "Apollo's Arrow", that right now where we are is the end of the beginning,
not the beginning of the end. Explain that.
NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS, AUTHOR, "APOLLO'S ARROW": In other words -- you know, we have had the first wave has struck us. The pathogen entered the
human species in November and is spreading and spreading and doing what it does. Probably 12 percent of Americans have been infected so far, and in
the end, probably 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans will be infected.
And so, we're just experiencing this event, this pandemic still. And as people know, we're now at the beginning of the second wave, which is going
to strike, unfortunately, with tremendous force. So -- and there will be more waves incidentally. There will be a third wave in a year, and a
vaccine will probably have been invented by then and reduce the amplitude of that wave, but this virus is going to be with us forever.
SREENIVASAN: Do the math for us, we're at a rate of roughly 140,000 infections a day and if we have a 1 percent infection fatality rate, that
means about 1,400 people that were, well, diagnosed or found out yesterday, are likely not to survive this. So, how bad does this get if we're just in
the second wave, and there are more waves that will inevitably come?
CHRISTAKIS: We have, as you said, about 250,000 Americans have died so far that we know of. But there's this old technique called the excess mortality
rate which was invented in the middle of the 19th century which looks at the total excess deaths of people during a time of pandemic compared to
normal times. And by that metric, we have more deaths, maybe 300,000 more Americans have died in the last few months than would have died in previous
So, the total burden of mortality is higher than 250,000, probably closer to 300,000 people have died because of COVID. And, as you said, about 1,000
or more per day are dying now, the sort of up ramp of the second wave. So, I think it's pretty clear at least 500,000 will die before the end of this
pandemic. Now, to be clear, that will take another couple of years and maybe as many as a million. So, that range of 500,000 to 1 million is
probably where when the histories are written in 5 or 10 to 20 years, we will have wound up unfortunately.
I should also say, while it's completely appropriate that we focus on mortality, I also have to mention that many millions of Americans will have
to disabled by this condition.
SREENIVASAN: We've had conversations on this program about people who are living with COVID for a very long time, months at that time. And so, what
percent of the population, setting aside for a moment if it's 500,000 to 1 million that might be filled (ph) by this, what percentage of the
population are likely to be having long-term consequences? And what's the ripple effect for us as a society, as a health care system?
CHRISTAKIS: So, there's a distinction between people who have so-called long COVID, whose symptoms endure for a long time and take a long time to
recover. They might have some mental problems, you know, so-called COVID fog, they might have ongoing respiratory problems and so on, but they might
eventually completely recovery.
There's a difference between that category of people and the category of people for whom whether the disease was short or long in duration have some
persistent disability. For example, a problem with their kidneys, renal insufficiency or some cardiac problems, or some neurologic problems or some
persistent pulmonary fibrosis, for example. We don't know what percentage that will be, it's very difficult to know this, but many experts think it
might be around 5 percent.
So, we might lose, let's say, 500,000 at least Americans will die at this, but we might then have 2.5 million who have some long-term disability. And
some of my colleagues, former colleague at Harvard, Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary who is an economist and David Cutler who is a health
economist there, recently published the paper that called this the $16 trillion virus. $8 trillion due to economic impact on our society and
another $8 trillion due to the health impact, death, disability, and illness. These are vast sums. This is an enormous calamity that has
And I'm not sheer to doom say. I'm just here to try as much as possible to frame for listeners the reality of what we're facing. Because I think that
the sooner we accept this reality and the sooner the American people rise to this occasion with a sense of civic purpose and a sense of maturity and
abandon a sense of wishful thinking, the better able we will be to band together to cope with and repel this virus that is threatening us.
SREENIVASAN: Getting from the global down to the personal, in the book you talk about your former life, if you will, as a hospice doctor, and you talk
about how you have literally held the hands of so many people that have passed on at that moment when they were alone. That is probably one of the
most heartbreaking effects of COVID, is to hear these stories and read these stories about loved ones who were separated at that last second. What
can we do as a society now, nine months in, 10 months in, knowing what we know to at the very least give people that moment of dignity or peace?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, one of the things that's so upsetting about plagues is that they are grief making. They are a time of grief and a time of loss.
People lose their lives, they lose their livelihoods, they lose their way of life and many Americans are seeing this. Schools are closing. People are
losing their jobs. We can't go to dinner with our friends anymore. We can't go to restaurants. It's sad. I mean, this is -- and this has happened, you
know, in medieval times or in Ancient Greece, people talk about the same exact phenomenon that we are discussing.
And similarly, one of the phenomena that they talk about is people dying alone. Because during the time of a contagious disease, at least in the
past, people were afraid that they would contract the disease by caring for the decedent. And in fact, during the bubonic plague, you literally got it
from dead bodies, as people were dying, the fleas that have transmitted the bubonic plague would leap from the person who have just died, the fleas
could sense that the body was cold, they have an ability to sense warmth, and they would leap to the nearest warm body, which was the people caring
for the person who had died, you know, cleaning their body and so on.
So, we have centuries of descriptions of dying alone in times of plague. And it shocked me as a hospice doctor in 2020 in modern America where this
had returned. Now, it returned for a number of very specific reasons, which we can as a rich society and as a scientifically grounded society, address.
Believe it or not, one of the main reasons it returned was that we didn't have enough PPE. In other words, we couldn't spare the PPE for family
members to come to the hospital to be with their loved one dying from COVID, which is appalling. I mean, just an appalling dereliction on the
part of our leaders that we weren't equipped to deal with this.
To my eye, someone who's dying, their loved ones should be there, that's a priority, for them and for their loved ones. And I believe despite the
burdens on health care system, our system should be organized to meet that important human need.
SREENIVASAN: You traced throughout this book how going backwards through time, there are almost these three distinct phases to pandemics like the
one we're in now. But break that's those down for us.
CHRISTAKIS: OK. So, what's happening now is we are in the biological and epidemiological phase of the pandemic. The virus was set loose in our
species and we had no natural immunity to speak of or very limited natural immunity. We are very likely to invent a vaccine in the coming months,
which is fantastic news, this is great news. Probably many vaccines will be invented. But once we invent a vaccine, we still have to manufacture it,
distribute it and persuade people to take it. And that's going to take time. Perhaps a year.
So, from where I sit, 2022 is a landmark year, which I call the immediate pandemic period by which time we will have reached herd immunity either
naturally or through vaccination. And what that means is from now until then, we're going to be living in a changed world. Wearing masks, physical
distancing, intermittent school closures, intermittent lockdowns, just as we're seeing right now.
But then, in 2022, we'll cross into what I consider to be the intermediate period. So, the epidemiological and biological shock will be behind us but
we're still going to have to deal with the psychological social and economic sequelae of the virus. And that, judging from historical
pandemics, will take a couple of years until our economy gets stood up again, people feel normal about going to airports and restaurants and so
forth again, begin to take their masks off and so on.
And then in 2024, we'll reach what I consider to be the post pandemic period. Approximately. These are approximate figures. And that could be
like the roaring '20s after 1918. So, all the increase religiosity, you know, religion rises during times of plagues, the abstemiousness, the
saving -- you know, people are saving money now, people are avoiding risk. All of that will reverse. And so, people, I think, beginning around 2024
will relentlessly seek out social interactions. They'll go to night clubs and restaurants and sporting events and political rallies. People will
start spending liberally again. There will be a lot of risk taking. (INAUDIBLE) for example. Maybe some sexual licentiousness.
Some people have read these descriptions and said, you know, here's hoping, you know, that we -- that that's the world we will in. But the point is,
there will be some kind of efflorescence, some kind of effervescence, I think, that begins around 2024.
SREENIVASAN: Right now there is a very strong contingent of people who say, we cannot afford to continue down this path, between now and 2024, the
poverty that we are inflicting on our people by having this crushed economy is possibly worse than what the virus could do to us.
CHRISTAKIS: Well, we're -- just remember, only part of what's happening to us is because we're doing it to ourselves. The virus is the real enemy. The
virus is doing this to us. The virus slows down economies. You know, we have descriptions from the plague of Justinian, 1,500 years ago, that talk
about how everything slows and ceases. The world became still. This was before, you know, there were governments ordering people to stay home or
closing schools. This was what virus -- you know, pandemics do. What epidemics do. This is awful, but I don't think willful denial helps us,
And, you know, let's remember that plague is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And if that's the case, you can think of lies and denial as
being the squire of the horseman, you know, following right behind. So, just as germs spread through social networks, since times immemorial, lies
and denial have spread right behind it.
And this is where I think leadership is so important and where I fault the Trump administration, which I think has fostered a culture of superstition,
denial, even lies about the epidemic, pretending it's not a big deal, pretending that hydroxychloroquine will be a miracle drug, when this was
known to be false and on and on. And where I hope that President-Elect Biden will more capably lead us, because we need our leaders to be square
with us in times of plague, because it's so tempting to lie and deny.
SREENIVASAN: How does a President-Elect Biden renew faith in institutions? I mean, this past year and a half has shaken the confidence of millions of
people in things like the CDC and the FDA, things we thought for bedrock reliable. People are now saying, well, I don't know if I should take this
vaccine that's been approved by the FDA. Maybe I should wait for 1 million other people to be my guinea pigs.
CHRISTAKIS: Yes, that's a serious concern. Now, it is true the CDC stumbled early on with the tests and there were some complicated bureaucratic
interactions with the FDA, which sort of boring to go into. But we could have done better with the tests. But generally speaking, the CDC scientists
know exactly what's going on.
So, to restore confidence, I think we're going to need a number of communication strategies. And I should say as a nation we need to work
together to tamp down on falsehood and to begin to hold our leaders to account for honesty and accuracy. So, how do we do that? I think it's very
important when leaders communicate in times of stress that they are honest good people, share the basis for their statements, here's my evidence for
why I'm saying this, and their degree of uncertainty. That way when you revise your opinion in a month and you say, actually, I had told you this,
but now changing my mind. You explain why. You could say, I was only 50 percent sure back then. This was the evidence then, now we have new
So, the ability to admit failure or wrongness is a very important part of maintaining credibility. And finally, willingness to break bad news and to
say to people, during a time of a deadly contagion, there's no life without risk. There's no easy out. And I think here, the American people need to be
called to service and called to sacrifice and called to common purpose.
SREENIVASAN: You've studied this. You've written about this, the idea that we fundamentally want to create good societies, that part of a good society
is sacrificing for something greater than ourself. Do you see that happening right now, especially in the U.S.?
CHRISTAKIS: I do, actually. I mean, during times of epidemics, there's a lot of badness that happens. There's blaming other people, there's denial
and lies, there's abandonment. We've discussed some of those things. But also, there are good things. People band together to work together. People
are kind to each other. Doctors and health-care workers and first responders take personal risks. Some of them die as a result of trying to
help other people. So, there's a sense to which human beings are called not only by our sort of political or social desires to fight the virus but by
our innate nature to work together, actually, to be kind to each other and care for each other when we're sick.
So, I see a lot of goodness in human beings and I see a lot of promise in our society in more effectively working together to invent technologies to
fight the virus and to band together to implement the kinds of procedures we need, for some time, to survive this modern plague.
SREENIVASAN: So, why do you think there's a portion of Americans who is don't agree with the idea of sacrificing for the greater good when it comes
to doing something like wearing a mask? Why is that a reality in this country versus how other countries have dealt with this in a very
CHRISTAKIS: Well, some countries, yes, have done better than others. But the desire to deny the reality of a plague is ever present. And, again, I
think this is where the role of leadership comes in. The fact that human beings don't wish to accept it, in some ways you can even make the argument
that it's the perfection of our democracy that allows us to have to leaders we deserve. So, if people want to be lied to, they will vote for leaders
who will lie to them.
And in a society in which the will of people is reflected effectively, then you get the leaders you deserve. But those aren't good leaders actually. We
can criticize those leaders and say, you know, they are not being truthful. Their duty is to be honest. So, I think everybody needs to rise occasion.
The American people need to rise to the occasion, the leaders need to rise to the occasion, other officials need to rise to the occasion.
And if you compare us to other countries, yes, some countries have done as poorly as us, but I don't see the fact the other countries have done just
as bad as us as an excuse. I see us as the United States of America. We have the CDC. We are a rich nation. We are supposedly able to deal with
these things. And so, I held us to a higher standard. And I think we could have done better and I think we will do better.
SREENIVASAN: The book is called "Apollo's Arrow." Nicholas Christakis, thank you so much for joining us.
CHRISTAKIS: Thank you so much for having me, Hari.
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a comment on my program at the end of the last week. I observed the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, as I often do,
it is the event that began the horrors of the holocaust. I also noted President Trump's attacks on history, facts, knowledge and truth. I
shouldn't have juxtaposed the two thoughts, Hitler and his evil standalone, of course, in history. I regret any pain my statement may have caused. My
point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values.
And that's it for now. You can always catch us online on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.