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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/12/21

Guests: Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, Vivek Murthy, Xavier Becerra, Kizzmekia Corbett


MSNBC hosts a Town Hall: Vaccinating America with the Biden coronavirus team, the Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy; and Health and Human Services Secretary, El Senor Xavier Becerra. They are working to get us to 70 percent of total vaccinations on July 4. One of the heroes of the pandemic, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist at the National Institute of Health who helped create the Moderna vaccine is also a guest.



JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Help is on the way. We moved heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated. One hundred million shots in our first 100 days in office -- I can say we`re not only going to meet that goal, we`re going to beat that goal.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: It`s a race between the vaccine and the virus.

BIDEN: Two hundred million shots, the goal unmatched in the world. This is an American achievement.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: The exponential growth in vaccinations actually seemed to be stopping.

BIDEN: There are millions of Americans who just need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know if I`m going to get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel like I`m good and I`m pretty healthy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear so many stories of side effects. And you`re like, I don`t need a side effect.

FAUCI: We really need to do whatever we can to win over people who are hesitant.

BIDEN: Our goal by July 4th is to have 70 percent of adult Americans of at least one shot.

The only way to get our lives back, to get our economy back on track is to beat the virus.


ANNOUNCER: This is an "MSNBC Town Hall: Vaccinating America".


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, and welcome to "Vaccinating America: An MSNBC Town Hall". I`m Lawrence O`Donnell. I`m joined tonight by my colleague Vanessa Hauc from Telemundo.


We are here with a live studio audience of Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, which comes among its 14,000 students and faculty members, but they`re divided.

O`DONNELL: President Biden says beating the coronavirus is the only way to fully reopen the economy and get our lives back. The vaccine has been available for months now. And as of tonight, more than 150 million people in America have received at least one shot.

HAUC: That`s right. But some people still have concerns about getting the vaccines for themselves or their children.

O`DONNELL: Our audience in the theater with us tonight will be able to put their questions directly to three members of the Biden health team, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

HAUC: And later in the hour, we will be joined by one of the heroes of the pandemic, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist at the National Institute of Health who helped create the Moderna vaccine.

O`DONNELL: Job one for the Biden administration is to get life saving vaccines into the arms of as many people as possible to stop the raging coronavirus that has killed 580,000 people in this country as of tonight.

I spoke with President Biden about this earlier tonight at the White House. And full disclosure, I worked in the United States Senate with Senator Joe Biden in the 1990s when I served on the staff of New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.


O`DONNELL: Mr. President, you met and exceeded your first 100 days` goal of 100 shots in arms; I`ve got two of them in here. Thank you for that, Moderna. Thank you for executing that delivery.

What about the next hundred days? Is vaccination still your number one priority in the next hundred days?

BIDEN: Yes, but there are close seconds that we`re going to have -- that are going to be announced in a couple of days. We have another 50 million that have been put in arms, so it will be 250 million.

And one of the things that I focused on when I got elected, I said I had two overwhelming needs; one, to get the American public vaccinated, and we had to go out and get an awful lot of vaccinators as well as vaccine to get 600 million doses of it, and we got that, a lot of it, done.

And to get people back to work, because, you know, we lost millions of jobs -- 22 million, I think it`s 22 million jobs. And they`re directly related to the vaccine -- not to -- to COVID-19.

So, what I`m continuing to do is making sure we get people back to work and change the circumstance where we get to the far point, where we have at least 70 percent of the American public vaccinated, and my goal is by July the 4th. And I think we can do that. We`re close to 59 percent getting (ph) one shot, so I think we`re getting very close.

O`DONNELL: You`re coming up against something we`ve never seen before in any vaccination program or any public health program, which is a partisan resistance to vaccination.

This is in addition to other hesitancies that other populations have. But there is a partisan resistance, and that is among people, many of whom fail what is a basic mental competency test -- who is the president of the United States? They actually get that question wrong.

How are you going to convince them to get the vaccine?

BIDEN: They`re showing up. All this stuff about vaccine hesitancy; the truth of the matter is more and more and more people are getting the vaccine.

And so, I`ve never believed that there would be a large percentage of Americans who wouldn`t get the vaccine.

But what`s the best way -- you know, you used to do local politics a hundred years ago -- what happens? When your neighbor gets a vaccine, your next-door-neighbor gets it, you say, well, maybe I should get it. And no matter what your position was, when you see people in a position where you can easily get the vaccine, you don`t have to go way out of your way.

That`s why you see I was on -- doing some meetings with folks who are providing for example and the governor of Maine, a Republican, is saying, if you want to get a free hunting license, come get a vaccine. Well, people are showing up.

And people are showing up across the board. So, the idea, I`ve never believed that at the end of the day, there would be any large percentage of Americans who would not get the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: I have a question from my Telemundo colleague, Vanessa Hauc, who wonders, what do you say to people who worry that their immigration status is a reason not to get the vaccine?

BIDEN: Well, I say they shouldn`t worry. They should get the vaccine. They should get the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: And there won`t be any interactions with government that occur because they get the vaccine?

BIDEN: What I have said is that it`s one thing for people who are in country here to have, if they show up for a doctor`s appointment, they show up to drop their child off at school, et cetera, we should lay off those people.

We should -- and that`s why I introduced a comprehensive immigration bill. There`s 11 million undocumented people in the United States, the vast majority of whom overstayed their visas.

We should move about getting that taken care of, making sure there`s a pathway to earn citizenship and get underway. They should not be in a position that, if they`re trying to save their lives or their health and they do what`s needed to be done to make people around them safe as well, they shouldn`t be penalized for that.

O`DONNELL: You just had a meeting with the Big Four -- the speaker of the House, minority leader of the House, majority leader of the Senate, minority leader of the Senate, and it had that external signal, which is always a good sign, which is that it went into overtime, it went much longer than people outside the room were expecting.

Kevin McCarthy said it was a productive meeting. Mitch McConnell said it was a productive meeting. But they do seem to be drawing a red line, as Mitch McConnell called it, on any taxes, any taxes to pay for an infrastructure bill, and you have some serious tax increases in your infrastructure bill.

BIDEN: Well, look, there was a red line saying they wouldn`t do anything on anything, quite frankly.

O`DONNELL: Well, that was last week. Mitch McConnell said last week --

BIDEN: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: -- he had 100 percent of Republican senators lined up against your infrastructure bill.

BIDEN: I understand that. That`s -- but I think we can have a deal.

And there are ways in which we can pay for this without just putting the entire burden on working class and middle-class people.

For example, there`s a situation where there`s an estimation of somewhere between $700 billion and a one-trillion-three-hundred billion dollars, if we hire up more IRS agents and we go after those folks who are avoiding taxes at the top end.

And that is -- I mean, these are serious - this isn`t pie in the sky -- these are serious, serious experts and liberals, conservatives, et cetera.

So, let`s say it`s somewhere in between; that`s one trillion dollars. I`m confident they would go for that.

I`m confident, for example, something that`s not in the, that two hundred - - two-trillion-dollar tax cut for which nothing was paid for, and it ended up being -- increasing the debt. There`s a thing called stepped up basis. That`s not in it (ph). Some stepped up basis is complicated.

I didn`t know what it was; I never had any money, so I didn`t know what it was.

But for example, if you have a capital gain, you`re a wealthy person, you`re about to cash-in, you bought a million dollars` worth of stock, now it`s worth it`s worth one-million-five-hundred-thousand, you`re going to cash it in, and God forbid, on the way to cash it in, you figure (ph) being hit by a truck and you die, that gets left to your son or daughter; they pay none of the capital gains you would have had to pay.

It`s not an inheritance tax. It`s a tax owed 10 seconds before it happened. Eliminate that. That raises billions and billions of dollars. So, there`s ways to do this.

O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell said that he`s not willing to reopen anything that was in the Trump tax cut.


O`DONNELL: Now there are --


BIDEN: -- neither of those were in the tax (ph) --


O`DONNELL: Yes, OK. So, is that where you`re exploring? Did you have an exploration of possible revenue with them, actual pay-fors --


BIDEN: No. I didn`t get into that. I got into what constitutes infrastructure.

I want to make it clear. I want to get a bipartisan deal on as much as we can get a bipartisan deal on. And that means roads, bridges, broadband, all infrastructure.

But I`m not giving up on the fact that we have, you know, 2 million women who are not able to go back to work because all the daycare centers are closed. They`re out of business. And so, they can`t go back to work.

I`m not going to give up on a whole range of things that go to the question of productivity, of increasing jobs, increasing employment, increasing revenues. I`m not willing to give up on that. So we`re going to fight those out.

So I want to know (ph), what can we agree on? And let`s see if we can get an agreement to kickstart this. And then fight over what`s left and see if I can get it done without Republicans, if need be.

O`DONNELL: You were trying to make a deal today in a room with Kevin McCarthy, where what he was doing before he came up here was expelling Liz Cheney from his leadership group for saying things like, the election is over, as she said last night on the House floor. And Kevin McCarthy is the same person who supported Liz Cheney just weeks ago.

How can you accept whatever someone like Kevin McCarthy says today as something that you`re actually going to legislate a few weeks from now or months from now?

BIDEN: If a man looks me in the eye, gives me his word that something`s going to happen, I take it unless he breaks it. He may have broken his word to somebody else, but to me, has he made that deal -- we`re nowhere near having made a deal. We agree that we should try to get a bipartisan agreement.

But the Liz Cheney/McCarthy thing is above my pay grade. I mean, I have enough trouble figuring out my own party all the time, let alone the Republicans.

O`DONNELL: Are you shocked that there`s just, at this point, one member on the Republican side of the House who was willing to stand up last night and say things like, the election is over, and if you don`t believe in the outcomes in our courts, you are an anti-constitutionalist on the Republican side? That`s what her fight is on the Republican side of the House of Representatives.

BIDEN: I think I heard Kevin McCarthy say today Biden`s a duly elected president.

O`DONNELL: He did.

This is the experience I had working with you in the Senate. I have to let the audience in on this. We`ve known each other 25 years, and when we were working together in the Senate, what I always saw is you take the most positive things someone says in your direction and try to work with that tomorrow. And you try to ignore anything that isn`t part of what you`re trying to work with tomorrow.

Is that the way you`re doing this job?

BIDEN: As Pat Moynihan once said to me, Joe, I`m not sure you`re Irish. You don`t hold a grudge.


O`DONNELL: Exactly. That`s right.

BIDEN: I don`t.

Look, it`s too important to the American people. I don`t want to sound -- I`ll just say what I believe. It`s too important to the American people for me not to continue to reach out to get things done with people that I agree and disagree with.

I mean, I ended up making a deal with Jesse Helms for the Lord`s sake on funding the United Nations. I didn`t have to give up anything, but I worked on it and worked on it. He finally came around.

But if I had said, because Jesse Helms has done all these other things, I`m never going to deal with him -- it`s just not the way it works.

I don`t -- look, I believe -- how can I say it? My mother used to give me - - I believe in redemption for myself as well.

But look, Lawrence, I have -- I once had a doctor who was -- had worked on me because I had had an aneurism 20-some years ago. He said, you know what your problem is? He said you`re a congenital optimist.

Well, I am, because I know the American people. The American people are optimistic. The American people never ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never. Not once in our history did they give up.

And I just -- I have faith. I have faith, and we just got to keep pushing it.

O`DONNELL: Let me ask you about the second most powerful Joe in Washington -- Joe Manchin, who has become a visitor to this White House, and he`s not there with the Democrats even on everything that`s proposed. He`s not there 100 percent on your infrastructure bill. He`s trying to work with Republicans to bring Republicans along into something that could be a compromise.

What about S1, the voting rights, voting access bill that the Senate Rules Committee considered yesterday? So important that the majority leader and minority leader went to the Rules Committee and -- to testify about and talk about that bill.

That bill looks like there will be zero Republican votes in the Senate for that bill. That bill also doesn`t fit any reconciliation rule. That bill cannot get through without 60 votes or without an adjustment to the cloture rule, which Joe Manchin would have to agree to.

Does Joe Manchin see this road in front of him and what that means for voting rights in America?

BIDEN: I don`t know. I`ve not had -- I`ve not had that discussion with Joe. I`ve been meeting with a lot of Republicans, a lot of, quote, "bipartisan groups" have been coming to see me on everything from my -- the overall bill, the families bill that I have and the caregivers bill, as well as the infrastructure bill.

We were at the same place. I don`t know -- I can`t say that you asked me, but other serious folks in your business asked me the same kind of questions when we were trying to do the American Rescue Plan. How can you possibly get it passed?

Well, it passed by one vote, even though up to the time that vote took place there were a number of people saying, I`m not going to do it.

But look, Lawrence, I have -- this is going to sound naive. I have faith in the American people. The American people overwhelmingly support what I`m doing. The polling numbers are overwhelming -- Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

The averages, we`ve got 78 percent of the American people, if I`m not mistaken in the last major poll done, showing that they support my -- what I`m talking about, this gigantic effort to try to build back and build back better.

You had an enormous number of American people supporting the last bill that passed. And look what`s happened -- 1.5 million new jobs, 1.5 million new jobs. You had all that money in there for COVID.

We`ve now got -- we have 250 million people will have gotten shots. The death rate is the lowest it`s ever been. It`s down 80 percent. Hospitalizations are down.

And so, I just think with all I -- what I have to do is just keep moving forward. Just keep moving forward, and the more we move, the more I demonstrate what we`ve done is working and is right, the more likelihood I`ll have to get it -- look, for example, you know, we used to be, back in the old days, when I first got to the Senate, we used to invest in research and development, the things of the future. We invested more money than any -- a higher percentage of our GDP than any nation in the world.

And China was number I think nine or something. We`re now number eight. China`s number one. What do we think is going to happen if we stand still for God`s sake? What do we think is going to happen if more corporate American doesn`t invest in research and development instead of buying back their own stock?

What do -- I mean, so, I think this is a matter -- this is a bit of -- as my grandfather, Finnegan, might say, this is a bit of an epiphany that`s going on here where people are beginning to look and say, whoa, whoa.

And I`ve met with either on the -- almost all on a telephone and/or on Skype, with I think now 40-some world leaders. They want to know, is America really back? Are we really back in the game? Are we going to engage?

And so, I just think -- I know this sounds -- well, I don`t know what it sounds like, but you know, it`s never ever, ever been a good bet against America. That`s never occurred. It`s never been a good bet, to bet against the American people, and I`m betting they`re going to come around.

O`DONNELL: I just have one more question for you, and that is, you`re 113 days into the presidency. This is the top of the mountain. You were climbing this career mountain for many, many years. You`re the most prepared president in history with 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president.

The one thing you don`t have on this 113th day in the presidency is your son, Beau`s, advice, and I`m just wondering what you would say if Beau called you today and said, hey, Pop, how`s it going?

BIDEN: I`d say, Beau, I remember what you`d say to me every single time we`d talk about a political issue. He`d say, Dad, look at me. I`d give him my word. Dad, look at me. Remember, home base. Home base. Be who you are.

The one thing that I`d hope that he would say is, Dad, you`re home base, you`re sticking to it. Some things are worth losing over, old buddy. I haven`t done this, this long than I had now (ph) to do things that I don`t -- I don`t believe.

O`DONNELL: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

BIDEN: Thank you. You always catch me off guard with Beau. God love him. He should be sitting in this chair.

Anyway, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President.


HAUC: The day Joe Biden took office, only 22 million doses of the vaccines have been administered. Tonight, that number is more than 263 million doses. Fifty-eight percent of adults have received one dose. And President Biden has set a goal of getting that 70 percent by July 4th.

We are joined tonight by members of the Biden coronavirus team who are working to get us there.

The chief medical adviser to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy; and Health and Human Services secretary, El Senor Xavier Becerra.


O`DONNELL: Secretary Becerra, let me just start off with a follow-up on what was Vanessa`s question to the president about immigration status and the vaccine in this country.

Can anyone get this vaccine in this country without regard to immigration status?

XAVIER BECERRA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Lawrence, I think the president has said it. And, in fact, the previous president said. Everyone should get vaccinated.

Everyone means anyone, anyone in this country whether you`re a citizen or not, you are eligible to get the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take a look at the audience here. Can we get a show of hands out there from anyone who has concerns about the vaccine or knows someone, maybe has a family member who has concerns, doubts, hesitancies about the vaccine?

Okay, just about everybody in the room tonight has that. I think our panel is ready to deal with any questions about that vaccine. So, let`s get started. Let`s get a question from the audience. We got someone approaching the microphone I think right here.

Please tell us your name and your question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Nathaniel.

My question is can you guarantee the safety and the long-term health of people who take the vaccine?

O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: You know when you have an intervention, there is never a 100 percent guarantee. But I can tell you the overwhelming evidence of data that we have now indicates that the vaccines as we all know are highly effective and really very, very safe. The chance of having a serious adverse event is minisculely small. So although there is no guarantee, there is a lot of confidence that it`s safe.

O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s take another from this side of the theater.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. My name is Carlos.

And in January, I contracted COVID. A week later, I got the monoclonal antibody therapy and four days after that, I tested negative.

Number one, is there any advantage to someone who`s already gone through COVID and getting the vaccination? And second, are there any preexisting conditions that can have an adverse effect as a result of getting any of the vaccinations?

O`DONNELL: Dr. Murthy, do you want to take that?


So, Carlos, first, thank you for your question. And I`m sorry to hear that you had COVID. I`m so glad that you made it through and it sounds like you`re doing much better now.

You`re a asking a great question. And it turns out even if you had COVID, it`s still important that you get vaccinated, and the reason is because your body will build up an immune response from having COVID but what we`ve learned is that the immune response, the protection that you get from the vaccine is actually even stronger and more robust than when you get from being naturally infected.

So, that`s why we are recommending that people getting vaccinated even if they`ve been sick before.

And, finally, to your question about other conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, other conditions that people may have, you`re wondering -- could that in any way, you know, lead to more side effects with the vaccine? In fact, I would say it`s the opposite.

People who have other medical conditions are at a greater risk of having bad outcomes with COVID of being hospitalized or potentially dying from COVID. So, it`s even important that they get vaccinated. And the fact that so many have is why we`re seeing the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths dropped in our country.

HAUC: Many people want to know, also how long would that immunity last?

FAUCI: Well, we don`t know but we know it is at least several months, likely considerably longer than that. And that`s the reason why we`re following large numbers of people to see what the level of the protection, if it will stay like this. And it will likely start to come down over a period of time, which may be the reason why it is not surprising if we would need a booster at some time in the future.

O`DONNELL: That`s the question I`ve been getting from parents of small children, down towards the age of 12. Will they get the same dose that an adult, a 200-pound 6-foot adult would get?

FAUCI: The 12 to 15-years-old will. When you get from 12 down, we do a dose de-escalation and an age de-escalation. So, we go from 12 years to 9, and 9 to 6, and 6 to 2, and then six months to 2 years.

As you get down to the lower ages, the dose will be diminished.


HAUC: Thank you, Dr. Fauci.

We have another question over there.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. My name is Corrina (ph).

I have three children between the ages of 10 and 15. And ideally, we would like to get them vaccinated but we`d prefer if it was FDA approved.

So, my question is, do you know the timeline for FDA approval for children? Since it was authorized later than for adults. Will FDA approval happen at the same time for adults and children, or later for children?

HAUC: Who would like to respond?

FAUCI: Yeah. Well, the 12 to 15, we`re there. So, right now, the recommendation of the ACIP (ph) that was just recently gone (ph) is that children at that age can get vaccinated. The approval for the younger will depend on the clinical trials that we`re doing right now.

So, as soon as the trials have finished, what the company will do is submit to the FDA to try to extend the approval the same way that we just did with the 12 to 15 years old.

BECERRA: But, for the -- for your children who are 12 or older, you don`t have to wait now. Now, you can go ahead and get those children vaccinated.

HAUC: Doctor?

MURTHY: And, Corrina, as a parent, I also relate to you, I got two kids as well. They`re not as old as your kids. They`re 3 and 4. So I`ve got to wait for a vaccine to be available to them.

But I can understand why you want -- you are considering the full approval. But here is one thing I would say about one reason I would encourage parents who go kids who are 12 and up to go ahead and get vaccinated now, especially now that the FDA and the CDC have weighed in and said this is something that kids should get.

It`s because we now have really good data that`s telling us that these vaccines work in kids to protect them and the rate of adverse effect is extraordinarily low. In fact, the most common side effect that the children were experiencing were temporary muscle aches, fatigue and fever that lasted a couple of days and then it went away. What they`re left was protection.

The other thing I just want to emphasize is that we hear a lot that the risk of COVID in kids is in terms of bad outcome is low, right? And that`s true. You know, kids do much better than old folks do.

But if overall we look at our experience, we`ve had -- you know, we`ve had a lot of kids who gotten sick. We had 13,000 kids who have been hospitalized in the age, 12 to 17 age range. We`ve got 127 who have died. This is not a benign thing. It`s not harmless in children either.

So, when we compare the risks and the benefits, the risks are really, really low. The benefits are really, really high. And this vaccine turns out is a way that our kids came (ph) back to seeing their grandparents, celebrating birthdays with friends, having sleepovers, dinners and other things with their friends, and ultimately getting back to their way back to their way of life.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci, could you explain the difference between the emergency use of approval of a vaccine and the final use of approval of a vaccine? Because I`ve been hearing some hesitancy based on what is a perceived distinction in that.

FAUCI: Yeah.

O`DONNELL: And I`m not sure what the distinction.

FAUCI: Well, there is a distinction but it`s really very nuance. And that is the emergency use authorization looks both at the efficacy and the safety, and the safety is a pretty good gauge because you will not get an emergency use authorization until you wait 60 days following where the time when half of the people of the trial gotten their last dose.

We know from experience that the overwhelming majority of the long-term effects are within 15 to 45 days following the dose. So, if you wait 60 days on the emergency use authorization alone, you`re in really good shape with safety.

The BLA, or the Biological License Application, or the full approval, usually waits several more months just to make sure, extra sure, with regard to the safety.

But we feel very comfortable now about the safety of those vaccines that have received emergency use authorization. So, it really is a matter of waiting a few more months to really nail it down.

But we shouldn`t hesitate, because I know there are people in the audience, I`m sure, that are saying just that: Hmm? Why don`t I wait until it`s fully approved?

The safety and the efficacy now is very, very firm, which is the reason why all of us strongly recommend that if you`re within the age group that can be vaccinated, that you get vaccinated. It`s safe, and it`s highly effective.

O`DONNELL: Some members of our audience have been attending this virtually tonight.

We`re going to take a question from one of those virtual audience members attending.

Dr. Rodriguez in Florida, go ahead.

DR. NORMALIZ RODRIGUEZ, JOHNS HOPKINS ALL CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL: Hi. I`m Dr. Normaliz Rodriguez. I`m a pediatric emergency physician at Johns Hopkins All Children`s at St. Petersburg, Florida.

Over the last months, I have seen an increase in the number of COVID- positive teenagers with severe respiratory symptoms requiring ICU admission, which is something I hadn`t seen before.

I`m hopeful that increasing vaccine accessibility to this population will improve this. But, as one of the only primary Spanish-speaking physicians in my group, my biggest concern is vaccine accessibility amongst non- primary English speakers.

What are we doing to improve vaccine accessibility and the vaccine appointment process for non-primary English speakers, many of whom already struggle to navigate our complex medical system?

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I can -- I can try to tackle that one.

Dr. Rodriguez, one of the first things I would say is, can you give us your phone number and your contacts, so we can work with you to make sure we reach out to that population?


RODRIGUEZ: I would love...



BECERRA: Secondly, what I can tell you is that President Biden has essentially instructed all of us to make sure we go to where you are, where the people who need to be vaccinated are, not wait for you to come to us, because we know that, at this stage, some of those folks are just having a hard time getting to us.

They may work long hours. They may have responsibilities at work and at home that make it very difficult. And they can`t figure out how to navigate the system. They may not speak English very well. All of those things, we`re not going to wait.

Later this week, I`m going to a site. It`s a small site in the Central Valley of California, where it`s mostly agricultural families. And we`re going to reach out to them, because we know many of them would have loved to get vaccinated. They just haven`t had the opportunity to go to the site.

So, we`re going to go to you. And before this town hall is over, we need to make sure we get your number, so we can help -- have you help us get to those people who trust you. They may not know us.


BECERRA: But they trust you.

RODRIGUEZ: Definitely.

HAUC: Thank you.

Thank you, Secretary Becerra.

Precisely one in five essential workers are afraid to get the vaccine because they are concerned about the side effects and missing a day at work.

What would you say to them?

BECERRA: Well, I will say to you that President Biden has already asked a lot of these employers to give some of their workers a day off, so they can actually go get vaccinated.

And if they can`t take the day off, then, as I said, we`re going to go to them. We want to know where you are. Tell us. We are now setting up mobile clinics to do vaccinations. So, we`ll go to you. We`re doing what are called pop-up vaccination sites, where, on any given day, if we`ve got a pastor who says, hey, my church is available, I`m going to have my parishioners coming in, let`s do something, we`ll do it.

Farmer -- it was in the news reported that a farmer said: I can get a whole bunch of my community folks to come on in.

And he was able to vaccinate several hundred people just by setting up a site around his farm.

We`re going to go where you are, because we know, at this stage, it`s up to us to help you. You`re not paying a cent. And so help us find you, because we want to get you vaccinated.

HAUC: Thank you very much.

We have another question from the audience.


I`m interested in knowing more about the concept of herd immunity and this idea that the vaccine not only protects me, but also others. Could you tell me more about how the portion of the population that is choosing not to be vaccinating harming others?

O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: She`s asking about herd immunity.

O`DONNELL: How is the -- the people...

FAUCI: I didn`t hear her very well.

O`DONNELL: The people who are choosing not to get vaccinated, would you describe them as being a harm to other people?


You know, Melissa, we -- we don`t ever want to accuse people or make them feel guilty. We want to embrace them and try and convince them, if they`re recalcitrant and don`t want to get vaccinated.

Try and find out what the reasons for that is. Reach out to them, even if it takes a trusted messenger, maybe not me, maybe someone who they trust in the community, a clergyperson or their family physician, to get to ask them why it is you don`t want to get vaccinated, rather than making them feel guilty, because you`ll never win them over if you do that.

So, our tack is to try and reach out and try and give the good rational reason why it`s necessary for your own protection, for that of your family, and really as your societal responsibility to keep the entire community safe.

HAUC: Thank you so much, Dr. Fauci.

We have many more questions to get to.

But, first, we want you to know that people that are 12 years old or older are eligible for a vaccine. If you need more information about where to get your vaccine, you can find the information you need by scanning the Q.R. code on your screen or going to



O`DONNELL: And welcome back to "Vaccinating America," an MSNBC Town Hall.

HAUC: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra are answering audience questions about vaccination.

We have many more questions.

But, before, Dr. Fauci would like to retake that question about herd immunity, because many people are concerned that we are never going to get there here in the United States.

FAUCI: Yes, Melissa, you asked that question about herd immunity. Let me explain.

The concept of herd immunity is when you get enough people who are vaccinated, plus people who`ve been infected recovered and have immunity. When you add them together, if you get enough people to have a blanket of protection over the community, that`s called herd immunity.

The herd immunity threshold is what that number is, what that percentage is. We don`t know yet what that is for COVID-19. We know what it is for measles, because we have decades of experience with measles. So, it isn`t that we`re not going to reach it, but we don`t know what that exact number is.

So, when you don`t know what the number is, the thing we do is say, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can, and, whatever that number is, sooner or later, you`re going to reach it. So, that`s the reason why we say, just go and get vaccinated, and don`t worry about this number that we`re not -- really not quite sure what it is yet.

That`s the answer to your question.

HAUC: Thank you.

And we have another questioner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Good evening, everyone.

Hi, Dr. Fauci. I`m a big fan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, what research is available about the side effects of the vaccine on pregnant women and their unborn children?

HAUC: Did you hear that, Dr. Fauci?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: What is -- tell us your name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, sorry. I forgot. My name is Misrin (ph).

MURTHY: Misrin.



Well, Misrin, thanks for that question.

And, you know, my kids are small. And it wasn`t that long ago that my wife was pregnant. And I remember, at that time, that I was so preoccupied with her health and the health of our child. And so I think it`s good to ask these questions, because we want pregnant women to be safe. We want their kids to be safe.

And I think the good news that we have with the vaccine is that, at this point, we have a large number of people in America who are pregnant who have received a vaccine, and it`s continued to have a very strong safety profile.

The CDC has been tracking this data. And, in fact, they release periodic reports on what they`re finding. And, most recently, their report, when they looked at people who received the vaccine in their third trimester, was that both the moms did well and the babies did well. And they`re continuing to look at more and more data.

But keep in mind that the first wave of people who got this vaccine were health care workers, nurses, and doctors and others, health professionals, and many of them were pregnant. And they chose to receive it because they knew one final thing here, which is that the risk of getting COVID if you are pregnant is serious, because, in people who are pregnant, the women have worse outcomes, and the babies actually have adverse outcomes when COVID -- you know, when COVID hits.

And that`s why we want to protect pregnant women against COVID at all costs. That`s why it`s such good news that the benefits of this vaccine are high and the risks very low in women who are pregnant.

O`DONNELL: We have another question from this side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi there. I`m Bailey (ph).

My question is, what would you say to someone who is on the fence about getting the vaccine, despite so many being vaccinated, and we still have to wear masks and social distance?

O`DONNELL: So, Dr. Fauci, that brings up the question of, once you do have this vaccine and you`re two weeks after your second shot, where and why should you still being wearing masks, and for how long?

FAUCI: Well, the CDC has come out with guidance, and will continue in real time to update those guidance, not only related to the number of people to get vaccinated, but what the level of infection in the community is.

So, I`m vaccinated. But, if I`m in an area where there is a lot of infection, I still could get infected. It`s very unlikely that I`m going to get seriously ill, but I still could get infected. And, if I do, I have virus in my nasopharynx, I could inadvertently and innocently spread it to someone else. That`s one of the reasons why.

As the level of community infection gets lower and lower, that likelihood comes less and less. And that`s what the CDC means when they say, as we get lower and lower, we`re going to pull back on the restrictions.

Right now, you don`t need to wear a mask if you`re together in a family or with friends with other vaccinated people. Certainly, you don`t need to on -- when you go outside, almost any circumstance, you don`t need to wear a mask, except if you`re in a very, very crowded place.

So, we need to get vaccinated. And the more people that get vaccinated, interestingly, the closer and closer we`ll get to a pulling back on all of those restrictions, because we all want to be in a situation where we don`t have to wear a mask at all, indoor, outdoor.

And we will get there if we get enough people vaccinated.

O`DONNELL: Let`s just double underline, before we leave that.

The best news that you just said, clarity in that, is that, when you`re outside, you -- if you`re vaccinated, you don`t need a mask at all outside. Does that have anything to do with my proximity to another person outside who might not be vaccinated?



O`DONNELL: So, a vaccinated person outside...

FAUCI: The only time you should -- yes.

O`DONNELL: ... even in close proximity...


O`DONNELL: ... to unvaccinated people, does not need a mask?

FAUCI: Right.

The only time you need a mask, if you`re vaccinated, is if you`re going to a very, very concentrated area, where people are literally walking all over each other.

O`DONNELL: Mm-hmm. OK.

We have another question from the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. My name is Matthew.

My question is, how do we know the vaccine is safe and who to trust?

O`DONNELL: That goes back to the testing process of how you develop a vaccine.

Dr. Murthy, this is a basic question that has kept coming up. Not everyone can read every detailed article that appears in "The New York Times," and certainly not scientific journals.

What do you -- what do you tell us about that?

MURTHY: Well, Matthew, first of all, it`s the right question.

You should know that what you`re taking and went into your body is safe and effective. And the good news is that we`ve got a lot of information about the safety of this vaccine.

Number one, the technology, the foundation for these vaccines is not new. I know there`s some headlines in the news that say these are brand-new technologies that we`re experimenting with. We`ve been spending decades building and developing this technology. That`s number one. So, we understand the technology.

But, number two, the trials that were done before the vaccine was made available to the public, they involved tens of thousands of people who were followed for months. And what we found in those trials is that they were really effective at preventing infection, and they came at a very, very low side effect rate.

But even if you don`t believe those trials, we have real-world data. We have more than 150 million people, Matthew, who have received at least one shot of the vaccine in America, and millions more around the world.

And rigorously tracking them, you know what we found? We found, again, that the vaccines are remarkably safe at reducing hospitalizations and deaths and infections, but the side effect rate has remained markedly low.

So, the -- what we have in total is a vaccine that has very high benefits and very low side effects, which is why so many doctors, more than 90 percent of doctors, actually, either took the vaccine themselves or are planning to get it, and why so many of us are recommending it to others as well.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, can I ask you, does it give you confidence that Dr. Fauci, who has been working in this area his entire life, was one of the very first people to take the vaccine, the Moderna vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a way, it does. I just still have hesitancies.


BECERRA: Lawrence, can I try one -- one other way?

O`DONNELL: Please, go ahead.


BECERRA: Matthew, let me ask you this.

Remember, when COVID started hitting, all the news that was coming out about the deaths? Most of the folks who were dying were our grandparents, our parents, older folks, right?


BECERRA: If you`ve been watching the news, you`re not watching news where the folks that are passing away are so much older Americans.

Today, what you`re finding is that, with the vast majority of seniors in America now vaccinated, they`re able to go out and do things. A lot of us were able to hug our -- our mothers or grandmothers on Mother`s Day because they`ve been vaccinated.

If you`re not convinced by the experts, then the fact that, today, your grandmother, your mother may be alive who got vaccinated is a clear sign that, not only is it safe, but it`s something we should do for our family. If we really do our love our family members, we`ve got to keep everyone safe and keep them alive.

O`DONNELL: And, Matthew, you`re lucky, because, at the end of the hour, you`re going to hear from Dr. Kizzy Corbett, who`s the woman who invented the vaccine that Dr. Fauci took, that I took.

You`re going to really want to listen to her. I think she`s the one who might be able to convince you.


O`DONNELL: Vanessa.

HAUC: And I think this is a very important subject, because families and friends are divided about this, and some people have decided to stop talking about it.

What do we do when we have a loved one or a family member that is in that place?

MURTHY: Well, we have to -- Vanessa, we have to do what we do with family, which is be kind, be understanding, and give people time.

Look, all of us are trying to make the right decisions for ourselves. We`re all trying to figure out a way forward here. And we have different questions. And some people might take longer to get to the answers than others.

But what doesn`t work is when we judge people, when we make them feel bad about their positions. And that`s why we`ve got to keep an open dialogue there, because one of the most powerful things that people say again and again in surveys is, they say that they -- about half the people want to actually talk to a family member to help make that decision about getting vaccinated or not.

And that means that, even if you don`t have an M.D. or an R.N. behind your name, even if you`re not in health care, you can be a really powerful force in helping your family make that decision, as long as you`re there for them when they have questions that need answering, and as long as you can help them make an appointment.

And don`t underestimate that piece either, because a lot of people, they`re sort of OK with getting the vaccine, but they just don`t know where to get it...

HAUC: Yes.

MURTHY: ... how to make an appointment.

But now it`s easier than ever. You go to In English and Spanish, you can put in your zip code. You can get locations by you. You text either GETVAX or Vacuna. You text to your -- your zip code to that, and you`ll get three places immediately that are close to you where you can get vaccinated.

These are the kind of tools we`ve got to give our family. Support them. Give them information. Lead by example in getting vaccinated yourself. That`s how we`ll protect our families and move forward.

O`DONNELL: I want to thank our expert guests for joining us tonight.

This is the A-team fighting the coronavirus for you. They`re doing this for you...


O`DONNELL: ... Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Secretary Becerra.

We`ll be right back with the creator of the Moderna vaccine, Dr. Kizzy Corbett. She`s next.

Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much.


O`DONNELL: Thank you...


HAUC: Thank you so much, Dr. Fauci.

O`DONNELL: Really appreciate it.


HAUC: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Hey, thank you.



O`DONNELL: Welcome back to "Vaccinating America," an MSNBC town hall.

If, like me, you got the Moderna vaccine, you have our next guest to thank. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health spent years working on a vaccine for coronaviruses before COVID-19 hit.

So, Kizzy Corbett was ready when the sequence of COVID-19 was revealed on a Friday in January of last year.


DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, SCIENTIFIC LEAD FOR NIH CORONAVIRUS VACCINE TEAM: When we got those sequences, because we knew how to make that protein as a very good vaccine, we did that really quickly over the weekend.

And by the 13th.

BIDEN: Over the weekend.


CORBETT: Over the weekend.



CORBETT: You know something about working on weekends, right?

BIDEN: Yeah, but not like that.



O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Dr. Kizzy Corbett. She is the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccine Team at the National Institutes of Health.

We want to let our audience know that, as we approach the 11:00 hour, that the "11th Hour With Brian Williams" will be coming up shortly. We`re just going to trespass on his time a bit to hear from Dr. Kizzy Corbett.

And, Dr. Corbett, the very strangest thing in what I heard you just say was over the weekend.


O`DONNELL: Over the weekend.


O`DONNELL: I can`t think of a single important thing I did over a weekend, except maybe study for exams in high school and college.

The sequencing of the vaccine gets determined in January. You go to work -- a sequence of the virus gets determined in January on a Friday afternoon, I think, and you just start working through the weekend? By the end of the weekend, you have your idea for what`s going to work as a vaccine?

CORBETT: Absolutely. You know why that is?

O`DONNELL: No, I don`t.


O`DONNELL: No one knows why that is.


CORBETT: It`s because we went into that weekend very prepared.


CORBETT: We had worked on coronavirus vaccines for the previous six years, and we knew exactly what to do.

And we were actually waiting patiently for those sequences, because we were so ready to start to make a vaccine in case that the virus did become a pandemic like we`re seeing now.

O`DONNELL: And that`s because you knew this kind of pandemic was both likely and surely on the way at some point.

You just don`t know when. It`s kind of like an earthquake.


You know, coronaviruses have -- giving us a hint over and over in history before. There was SARS. Then there was MERS. And so we kind of knew that coronaviruses as a viral family had pandemic potential.

And so we prepared for it.

HAUC: Dr. Corbett -- and this is a concern that many people have raised -- they think that the vaccine was developed very, very fast.

Could you explain that this type of process of development had been going on for decades?

CORBETT: For decades, both on what we were doing at the National Institutes of Health, which was basically fundamentally understanding coronaviruses, so that we can make a really good vaccine for it.

And, also, the technologies that these vaccines are using, they have been in development for years. And so, when you bring those two things together, you become really confident, as a scientist, that you know what you`re doing.

And the steps to the vaccine development process embedded in all those -- all the steps are checkpoints, where we, as scientists and the FDA say, can you go forward, is this vaccine safe, and does it illicit or make the type of immune response that you would think?

O`DONNELL: Dr. Corbett, you heard Matthew earlier in the hour.

Dr. Fauci, who`s been working his whole life on this, taking the vaccine -- your vaccine -- in public, gave him a certain amount of confidence, but didn`t get him over the line to eliminate his hesitancy.

Do you have anything to say that might help Matthew get all the way to the vaccine?

CORBETT: Where is Matthew?

O`DONNELL: Where is Matthew? There he is.

CORBETT: Hi, Matthew. You know, I get it. I completely understand.

From where I sit, I think I`ve realized that through this moment I sit in a place of privilege where I have information on a day-to-day basis about these vaccines that the general person does not.

But the one thing that reassures me constantly is seeing overtime more and more people getting these vaccines, the data is so clear and crisp in that they are safe and that they are effective.

And also, I would beg of you to not just take my word for it or Dr. Fauci`s word for it, but ask people around you how they felt after getting the vaccine, and moreover, how they feel in their confidence around just entering the world again after being vaccinated and hopefully that helps.

HAUC: Dr. Corbett, you have talked about the importance of, not just saying the things to people, but also listening and meet them where they are. Why is that so important?

CORBETT: Because, you know, a lot of what is termed vaccine hesitancy -- which I like to call vaccine inquisitiveness -- comes from populations of people who just haven`t been listened to before.

And so, I think that it was just time for us as scientists and people in the medical profession to just say, we hear you, we understand, and this is what we can give back, which is the information, so that you can make an informed choice for yourself.

HAUC: Very important. We have another question right there from the audience.

QUESTION: Hi, I`m Jessica (ph), Jessica Jimenez (ph). Thank you so very much for your work for mankind.

My husband, myself, we are vaccinated. I vaccinated -- I was hesitant to vaccinate my 16-year-old, but now I`m afraid to vaccinate my minor.

What assurance can you give me about the side effects in the long term? I`m really afraid about the side effects and whatever comes in the long term.

CORBETT: I completely understand that. And one of the reasons why this overarching view that there is fear about side effects for the long term is that, what you`re seeing is a year or a year-and-a-half of vaccine development, but remembering, as was said before, these vaccines have been -- or the technologies have been in people long before even COVID-19 became a thing.

Secondly, as Dr. Fauci said, generally speaking, about 95 percent of the time, any adverse event from a vaccine would happen within that first two months, noting that we are over a year from the time that the first person was vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine.

And so, any safety indications would be showing up over these -- over this time and that with that you can trust the system.

And so, as more and more data come out, just look at that data and say, OK, now is the time that I can trust what I`m seeing.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

HAUC: And Jessica (ph), I know your family is here in the audience.


HAUC: (SPEAKING SPANISH), do you feel better with that response?

QUESTION: It`ll take time, I think, to get over --

HAUC: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the fear about vaccines to minors. But, yes, thank you so much.

HAUC: Uh-huh.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I think this is so illustrative of the dimensions of hesitancy. Here`s someone who is vaccined. She is not afraid of the vaccine for herself. She decided this is good for me.

She has a concern about a child, a 16-year-old. She feels it`s a different medical question and a different risk tolerance in which we all understand. I think we -- we have a zero-risk tolerance for our children in anyway.

And so, the hesitancy to vaccines, as we`re just seeing, has so many more dimensions than we might think.

CORBETT: You know -- and I like this -- well, first of all, what that is, is a mother`s love.


HAUC: Yes.

CORBETT: OK? A mother cares about their child far more than they could every dream of caring about themselves. And so, I can appreciate that.

But what I like to say is that, the same way that you think about your risk assessment for yourself, I want to protect myself at all costs so I could live for my kids, so that I could escape under this pandemic for my kids, think about that same thing for your children.

These vaccines, as was determined by the FDA just the other day, are proven to be safe and effective in children.

And long-term side effects that you might see in children that people might be concerned about have actually not ever happened from vaccines before, like people are thinking about fertility or autism and all of these things that just are over and over debunked.

And so, think about it in that way, you are, in your mother`s love and that capacity, protecting your children by giving them this vaccine.

HAUC: I know that you work with many marginalized communities. What is the main challenge with these communities, and how did you overcome it?

CORBETT: Just being myself. I am from a marginalized community. And so, understanding that and from where I come, and from where I`ve conquered, essentially -- and empathizing with those communities back was very important in those moments, I think.

And so, for me, it`s just about being real and open and transparent -- and also making sure that people see the passion that I have for the science that we`ve done, even before COVID-19, but particularly in this moment, and -- and having that transcend to people so that they can feel a part of it - - a part of the movement even.

O`DONNELL: When you were growing up in Hillsborough, North Carolina, what would - what do you imagine, if you were still there, your perception of this vaccine would be, if you were just a -- still a kid going to school in Hillsborough, North Carolina?

CORBETT: Well, I would imagine, like my niece who got a presentation about the vaccine, and I was in it, and she said, are you famous?


O`DONNELL: Yes, yes she is. As of tonight, she`s famous.

CORBETT: You know, I - my heart will always reside in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where I was raised, and I am very happy to represent for Hillsborough in this moment.

HAUC: Well, your contribution is immense, so thank you so much -

CORBETT: Thanks.

HAUC: -- Dr. Kizzy, we really appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: And Dr. Kizzy Corbett, we cannot thank you enough for joining us tonight. Let`s hear it. This is a real hero in our hearts.


O`DONNELL: Thank you very, very, very, very much.

And we`d like to thank all of our guests tonight -- Dr. Corbett, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Murthy, Secretary Becerra, and we would like to thank our audience for their questions, our hosts here at Northern Virginia Community College, and their viewers watching at home.

HAUC: And thank you to all of our viewers on Noticias Telemundo digital platform.

O`DONNELL: And from all of us here at MSNBC, thank you for watching.

Thank you. Dr. Corbett.


CORBETT: Thank you.