On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Cecilia Rouse, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers
- Rep. Ritchie Torres, (D) New York
- Jonathan Nez, President, Navajo Nation
- Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
- Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the COVID pandemic amplifies inequality in America. It's powerful, pervasive, and growing. So what can be done? By some measures, the gap between the haves and the have-nots, today is bigger than it has been since the Great Depression, and divisions between race and gender shaped every aspect of American life.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The pandemic only made the division so much worse and more obvious.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden put equity at the center of his pitch for a new two trillion-dollar American infrastructure and job plan.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Too often, investments have failed to meet the needs of marginalized communities left behind.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But can he get another massive spending bill through Congress? We'll talk with Cecilia Rouse, the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. We'll look at global access to the COVID vaccine with Doctor Seth Berkley, co-head of COVAX, the largest immunization project in world history. New York Congressman Ritchie Torres' South Bronx district is the poorest in the country. We'll talk with him. Jonathan Nez, the head of the Navajo Nation, joins us to discuss the impact COVID is having on Native American communities. Sister Norma Pimentel runs the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. We'll ask her about the crushing humanitarian crisis among migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Plus, have Americans become too complacent with COVID? We'll check in with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.
It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. On this Easter Sunday, we'll take a special look at some of the many inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. We begin with the virus itself. Last week, CDC Director Doctor Rochelle Walensky spoke about her fear of impending doom and pleaded with Americans to just hold on a little longer. The CDC also gave vaccinated Americans a green light for air travel, but the TSA reported the highest number of airline passengers since the pandemic began. Eighteen percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated. Case numbers are still rising in twenty-seven states and Washington, DC. In some of those places, the largest number of new cases is among children for the first time. We want to begin with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He sits on the board of Pfizer, and he joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, doctor, we are vaccinating four million people a day. But when you look at the infection levels, do you see a fourth wave?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I don't think there's going to be a true fourth wave. I think we've probably delayed the point at which we can get this behind us for the summer, but we haven't forestalled that opportunity. I think with the rate of vaccination that we're having right now, we're vaccinating, as you said, four million people a day. I think that's probably going to reach five million people a day. And the level of immunity that we already have in the population, we vaccinated more than a hundred million Americans. We probably infected about a hundred and thirty million Americans. So you have somewhere around two hundred million Americans that have some level of immunity in them already. I think that there's enough immunity in the population that you're not going to see a true fourth wave of infection. What we're seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven't been vaccinated and also in school-age children. If you look at what's happening in Michigan and Minnesota and Massachusetts, for example, you're seeing outbreaks in schools and infections in social cohorts that haven't been exposed to the virus before. Maybe we're doing a better job sheltering. Now they're out and about getting exposed to the virus and they're getting infected. So the infection is changing its contours in terms of who's being stricken by it right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You had long been a proponent of reopening for in-person learning. Given what you're seeing now, do you think schools need to shut back down?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I don't. Schools aren't inherently safe, but they can be made more safe. I think we need to stick to strict mitigation in the schools, so schools that use masks, schools that can implement some kind of distancing, as one epidemiologist referred to it this week, go the full Harry Potter and try to keep students within defined social cohorts so that they're not intermingling in large groups. If you're taking those measures in schools, I think the schools can be made more safe. And I think the benefits of being in school outweigh the risks. But we need to be cognizant of the fact that schools are a risk factor, children are vulnerable to the infection, and that the schools can become focal points for community spread if we're not careful. I think we're seeing some of that in Massachusetts right now where the greatest proportion of the new infections are among school age children. You're seeing the same kind of statistics in Michigan as well. Both states recently reopened schools. And I don't think it's a coincidence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Fauci has said on this program, first quarter of 2022 for vaccinations. And then this week, he said by the end of this year, we should have enough information to safely vaccinate kids of virtually any age. What do you think of this timeline? Is it moving faster than anticipated?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think it's moving quickly. I don't know that it's faster than what we anticipated. We're going to have data, I think, that's going to inform the FDA's ability to make a decision on the emergency use of the vaccine in twelve to fifteen for the Pfizer vaccine. So Pfizer, as you know, the company I'm on the board of, as you mentioned, recently unveiled clinical data, a clinical trial of twenty-two hundred kids age twelve to fifteen that look quite encouraging. That data is going to be submitted to the FDA. The FDA is going to be in a position to issue an emergency use authorization for that age group. I think that could potentially come in time to have the vaccine available for twelve to fifteen before the school year. And I think the way to think about trying to vaccinate children is vaccinate different social cohorts. Do we vaccinate high school-age kids? Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is approved down to sixteen. So that gets you into the high school age set. Do we start to vaccinate into the middle school? ACIP is ultimately going to have to-- the advisory committee to CDC, which is ACIP, is ultimately going to have to make a recommendation on where they think the vaccine should be used in children. And they're going to think about it in terms of the social networks and the social cohorts where they want to introduce the vaccine, high school being the most obvious and perhaps middle school. But I do think we're going to be in a position to vaccinate twelve and above before the fall. I think younger than that could take more time because you're going to want to test a lot of different doses to try to find the lowest possible dose that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --still is providing an-- a robust immune response to kids.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, I'm sure you've seen this, too, in your social media feeds. There are a lot of people traveling with their kids right now for spring break. People who didn't celebrate Christmas are celebrating right now, even though Doctor Fauci on this program said it is high risk to walk into an airport. Do you think health officials are-- are losing their influence at this point?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think you need to be careful as a public health official to issue guidance that you know the public is going to largely follow. You don't want to be so out of step with the aspirations and-- and where the public is and what the public is going to ultimately engage in, that the guidance just gets ignored. You have to issue the guidance in the context of what the public's willing to do. I do think it's important that people like Doctor Fauci and the CDC director urge caution. I think we should continue to be cautious. We're still in a high prevalence environment. We still have these variants circulating that we don't fully understand. We don't know whether people are getting reinfected by some of these new variants. We should have that information, but we don't. So there's a lot we don't understand about this virus right now. And we don't want to be in a position where we extend the-- the epidemic because we weren't prudent about the steps that we were taking right now. That said, people are sensing that there's less risk overall. As people get vaccinated, they-- they feel themselves that they're at less risk and they are based on the vaccination. And so they're willing to start engaging in the things that they put off for a full year. So we need to recognize that and I think issue the guidance in a way that people can conform to it against, you know, their aspirations--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --which is that they want to see family again. They want to start socializing. They want to start traveling a little bit.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Last night, Johnson & Johnson said it would assume full responsibility of vaccine manufacturing at this plant in Baltimore that apparently ruined about fifteen million doses of a COVID vaccine. Our Sara Cook is reporting that it was at the orders of the Biden administration. Any headline like this hurts confidence. How significant is this problem?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I don't think it should hurt confidence in people's perception of the safety of the vaccine. This was ultimately detected as part of the quality checks that they do in that facility. I don't think they should have been manufacturing two different viral-- viral vector vaccines in the same facility. Viruses are sticky. Their genomic material transfers easily. We saw this with the CDC in terms of their failed rollout of their diagnostic tests because they were manipulating too many viruses in one facility and there was some cross contamination. It does appear to be the case that some component of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which they were also manufacturing in this facility, got into the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: That is the public reporting from officials in the administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: They shouldn't have been doing that in the same facility. I think what this underscores is we just don't have a lot of excess biomanufacturing capacity in this country--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --that we had to use at one facility to do these both things.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor Gottlieb, thanks as always for your analysis.
FACE THE NATION will be right back with Doctor Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Friday, there was good news in the jobs report, as more than nine hundred-thousand jobs were added back in March. Overall we're still at 8.4 million fewer jobs than a year ago. Doctor Cecilia Rouse is Chair of the White House council of economic advisers, and says that improvement is due to the acceleration in vaccinations and schools reopening which allowed some women to re-enter the workforce. We spoke with her Saturday.
CECILIA ROUSE (Chair, Council of Economic Advisers/@CeciliaRouse): What we saw in the last month is that there was an improvement in labor force participation that was entirely due to women. And at the same time, when we look at the job gains, it was widely-- it was widely shared. So it was-- there were gains across the economy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So inside this jobs bill that the Biden administration is pushing, there's about twenty-five billion for building or upgrading child care centers and expanded tax credits to incentivize child care centers being built by private employers. How is this supposed to work?
CECILIA ROUSE: What the jobs plan recognizes is that care is an important part of our infrastructure if workers are going to be able to go back to work. So the idea is to provide incentives for people-- for child care centers to be built where there are none, and also for employers to develop their own child care systems so that it makes it that much easier for their workers to be able to drop off their children, know that their children are being well taken care of while they're able to also work outside the home and do the kind of work that they find fulfilling or that they want to do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This two-trillion-dollar ask, only about five percent of the funding goes to infrastructure. Viewers can take a look at the breakdown here of all the programs that are called for funding on. But of the six hundred and twenty billion for infrastructure upgrades, it includes incentivizing purchases of electric cars. Can you honestly call this a focus on building roads and bridges?
CECILIA ROUSE: I think it's important that we upgrade our definition of infrastructure. One that meets the needs of a twenty-first century economy. And that means we need to be funding and incentivizing those structures that allow us to maximize our economic activity. So incentivizing electric vehicles is really important because we need to be addressing climate change. If we think about the opportunity cost of not doing so, we're just going to keep paying for it. And we know that we need to be encouraging our industries to be tilting towards, you know, greener production, greener technologies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden is throwing around this projection that the entire bill will create about nineteen million jobs. What does that number come from? Which industries are going to do that hiring?
CECILIA ROUSE: So that's an estimate from Moody's Analytics, and it's-- we know that those-- those jobs are going to be coming from the-- the traditional infrastructure. We can just call it traditional, the roads and bridges. So the pipefitters, the electricians, those who will be paving the roads and building the bridges. But we also know that some of it's going to be coming from research and development. So the scientists and engineers will be thinking through the innovations that will ensure that our economy is being, you know, is-- is being smart and is developing solutions to the knotty problems that we need to solve if we're going to really address climate change and be prepared to, you know--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
CECILIA ROUSE: --continue to flourish as we go forward. But now that men and women are in the labor force, we need for our-- our loved ones to be taken care of. Otherwise, women cannot go to work, as this pandemic has highlighted.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That Moody's analysis says, though, in terms of jobs with the infrastructure plan, the economy recovers the jobs lost in the pandemic by early 2023. But it's not much different than without the plan. The President has said raising taxes on corporations won't hurt the economy. But a slew of employers disagree. I'm sure you've seen these statements. Chamber of Commerce called this proposal dangerously misguided. They say the tax increases will make the U.S. less competitive. National Association of Manufacturers says it will fundamentally undermine our ability to lead this recovery. These are the employers that you need to create these jobs.
CECILIA ROUSE: The President believes that, you know, everybody should be paying their fair share in taxes. In those-- that Moody's analysis that you cited, looking over a ten year plan, the analysis incorporates both the investment parts of the President's proposal, but also the corporate tax com-- components as well. And on net, we see that there is an improvement in our economic growth. We see that there's an improvement in labor force participation. We see there's an increase in the number of jobs and a decrease in the unemployment rate. So net net, we think that the President's proposals are good for the American economy, even including the corporate tax cuts-- oh my gosh, so even including the corporate tax increases.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The corporate tax rate, as you're indicating it, would go up to twenty-eight percent, probably even higher than that. And taxes and corporate income earned overseas would also increase. This is fifteen years of higher taxes to pay for eight years of spending. Can you really say that's not a cost?
CECILIA ROUSE: Typically when one makes an investment, one pays for an investment up front and there are returns that gather over time. And I would say that the reason why the President is proposing these corporate tax increases is because that's just the right thing to do. He believes we should be, you know, we should be en-- encouraging these corporations to pay their fair share. They all use the roads and bridges and the public goods that are going to be created by these investments. And they should be paying their fair share of the taxes in order for us to be able to do so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This past week, we had a number of corporations weigh in on this controversial move in a number of states to change voting rights laws. The President said that he would like to see the All-Star game move out of Georgia. And then the very next day, Major League Baseball did just that. Is the White House urging corporations to use their economic power to take political positions?
CECILIA ROUSE: Well, look, the President has said very strongly that he is opposed to the state laws restricting voting rights. He's called them the Jim Crow of the twenty-first century, just, you know, period. In terms of these companies, they are exercising their right to-- to vote with their feet. It's a little early to judge what the economic impact will be, but they have a right to-- to vote with their feet and to-- and to express their dissatisfaction with the laws.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But for a popcorn stand worker in Atlanta who just learned he's not going to be hired in July. I mean, this comes at a cost, does it not?
CECILIA ROUSE: There is undoubtedly going to be a cost, I think that was the point that the Major League Baseball was trying to make. Major League Baseball will, however, move its-- its game and workers at another place will benefit. You know, that is exactly the message that Major League Baseball was trying to send. The President opposes these laws. He believes that they are restrictive, they are discriminatory. These businesses-- these companies have the opportunity to vote with their feet and they're using their economic power to just express their dissatisfaction.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. Doctor Rouse, thank you for your time today.
CECILIA ROUSE: You're very welcome. Thank you for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full conversation with Doctor Rouse is own our website at facethenation.com.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: According to U.S. Census data, Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres represents the poorest district in this country. That's in South Bronx, New York. Good morning to you, Congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES (D-New York/@RepRitchie): It's an honor to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have some of the lowest vaccination rates in New York, and yet that super site at Yankee Stadium has been open since February. What is stalling vaccination?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Well, the racial disparities in vaccination rates for me is more a consequence of vaccine access than vaccine hesitancy, and one of the greatest barriers to vaccine access is the digital divide. Those in the Bronx who have no access to the internet, have much less access to information about vaccination sites and have no real ability to participate in online registration systems.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So how do you quickly fix that problem? Because it sounds like what you're saying is the fact that Yankee Stadium is open doesn't mean anything because your constituents can't log on to make an appointment in the first place.
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Well, we're making progress, but we have to rely heavily on community health centers, community-based institutions that can serve as credible messengers in places like the South Bronx. And I'm optimistic that we are making progress.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This highly contagious New York variant has hit your area of-- of the city. Do you have any indications about how widespread it might be?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Yeah, so my understanding is more than seventy percent of the coronavirus cases in New York City consist of variants. The New York City variant is more than forty percent. The British variant is more than twenty-five percent. And so I'm concerned, you know, we're beginning to see an increase in the number of cases because of these variants, which are much more transmissible. So that's why we impress upon the importance of wearing a mask. And we have to continue testing. We have to continue practicing social distancing. You know, there is widespread COVID fatigue. And I worry that too many people have become complacent as we've come closer to normalcy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your district is majority Latino. This week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, "If someone tried to design an economic crisis that would unduly target the Hispanic community, they'd probably come up with something that looks like COVID-19." I mean, she just listed the sectors of the economy Hispanics work in have been hardest hit. Fifty percent of revenues for Latino-owned businesses were impacted by the shutdown. One in five Latino households say they don't have enough food to eat. I mean, the list of challenges is huge here. Where do you begin with your constituents? What's issue number one?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Well, you're exactly right. COVID-19 has held up a mirror to the deepest inequalities in the country. The South Bronx is racial-- is ground zero for racially concentrated poverty, and the unemployment rate could be as high as twenty-five percent. For me, nothing is more corrosive to civil society and to our economy than long-term unemployment. And that's why the American Jobs Plan is so critical, because it would create fifteen million jobs over a ten-year period and the vast majority of those jobs would be available to those without a college education. So we're targeting the communities that historically have been left behind by economic dislocation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about the plan that the Biden administration is now putting forward, but you've also said it's not nearly big enough. So are you saying that you do support it, even though you've also criticized it?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Well, it's-- it's a historic investment in our country. You know, we've been plagued by decades of disinvestment that have made the United States less productive, less competitive, less innovative and less resilient in the face of catastrophic climate change. The President's plan represents the largest investment in our workforce and infrastructure in more than a half a century. No plan is perfect. I have constructive criticisms, but there's no question that it would fundamentally change the trajectory of our country, not only here at home, but abroad.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What's your criticism?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Specifically on the affordable housing piece. So, I'm-- I'm a product of public housing, and so I'm on a mission to ensure that public housing gets its fair share of the American Jobs Plan. You know, in New York City, public housing has been so savagely starved of federal funding that it has forty billion dollars worth of capital needs. So you have children who have been poisoned by lead in their homes because of federal disinvestment. You have senior citizens who were freezing in their homes with boilers breaking down because of federal disinvestment. The plan only proposes forty billion dollars. Public housing in New York City alone, has a forty billion-- billion-dollar capital needs. So we need at least seventy billion dollars to fully address the humanitarian crisis in public housing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, New York Democrats and Speaker Pelosi herself have said that they want to see some changes to this bill, including tax relief for state and local governments, the so-called SALT tax. I mean, Chuck Schumer has called this a dagger at the heart of New York. Are they out of step with your constituents or is the White House out of step with your constituents? Where do you fall on this?
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: Well, I certainly support the restoration of SALT deductibility, but my highest priority is a permanent child tax credit. You know, as you said, I represent what is said to be the poorest congressional district in America. And there's no policy that would do more to lift the South Bronx out of poverty than the child tax credit. Before the American Rescue Plan the structure of the child tax credit was so regressive that it left behind a third of American children, twenty-seven million children in America. And so my highest priority is to see a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, because for me--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, which is not in this bill.
REPRESENTATIVE RITCHIE TORRES: --a permanent child tax credit would be for would be for children what Social Security has been for senior citizens.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which-- to be clear, what you're asking for is not in this bill. And neither is addressing the SALT tax that I asked you about. Thank you, Congressman, for your view today into your district. We will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. As long as the virus circulates around the globe, it remains a threat. According to the World Health Organization, more than thirty countries have not yet started vaccinating their population, including almost as you can see there, the entire continent of Africa. COVAX is the largest global vaccination program in history and aims to distribute donated vaccines to countries that may not be able to purchase them. Doctor Seth Berkley is the co-head and joins us from Geneva, where it is into the evening on Sunday. Thank you for joining us.
SETH BERKLEY, M.D. (CEO, GAVI the vaccine Alliance/@GaviSeth): Thank you for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are talking about that global immunity gap here. April 7th, that's Wednesday, is when the World Health Organization wanted all countries to begin administering vaccine. Is there any way to meet that goal?
SETH BERKLEY, M.D.: Well, we are on our way. We've vaccinated eighty-four countries or-- or put- brought vaccines into eighty-four countries over the last about six weeks. We hope to get over a hundred in the next couple of weeks. But I think the big challenge here is the inequity that we talk about between developed countries and developing countries. Of course, as you said, we are only safe if everybody is safe and nothing tells us this like the new variants, because if we have large populations that are not vaccinated, then there is the risk that we will see new variants pop out and they will continue to spread across the world, as we've seen with this virus has been able to do up until now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the first COVAX-provided doses began arriving on the continent of Africa in February. But as we just saw on that map of the fifty-four countries, I mean, there are big deserts here, essentially where vaccine doses are not being distributed. What is the biggest impediment? Is it supply or is it the logistics to deliver shots and arms?
SETH BERKLEY: So the logistics have come along. Of course, we work-- the GAVI Alliance, which I head, is a public-private partnership that works to provide vaccines for developing countries. And we provide about fifty percent of the world's children with vaccine. We've been able to launch five hundred vaccines over the last twenty years. So the logistics is not bad. The big challenge right now is access to vaccines. We have gone ahead and placed orders for more than two billion doses, but the majority of those are coming in the second half of the year and in the first half of the year there-- because of vaccine nationalism, has meant that there are less doses available. So that's our biggest challenge. Now, if we had more doses, we could make those available.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Vaccine nationalism, you're talking about governments essentially favoring their own population rather than shipping necessarily the doses abroad. The outbreak in India, I know, has caused some real slowing of their exports. How badly has that set you back?
SETH BERKLEY: So India is by volume the largest supplier of vaccines for the developing world. And because of the new wave of outbreaks in India right now, the Indian government has stepped up their vaccination programs. And that has meant that they've required more doses, which means that they've met-- made less doses available for the rest of the world. We had expected in March and April about ninety million doses, and we suspect will get much, much less than that. And that is a problem. But we're in a race because we also see wealthy countries beginning to cover much of their population. And our hope is that they will begin to make their vaccines available to the rest of the world, including ones that they may not use. For example, the U.S. not only has Moderna, Pfizer and J&J, but they also have vaccines from Novavax and, of course, from AstraZeneca.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SETH BERKLEY: Those could be made available and they would make a big difference in terms of-- of the supply for the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to ask the U.S. government to donate its supply of AstraZeneca?
SETH BERKLEY: Well, the U.S. has been a fabulous supporter of GAVI and of COVAX, and they recently provided a very substantial financing of about four billion dollars.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SETH BERKLEY: What we're talking about now is ultimately getting access to the large manufacturing facilities. I mean, the-- the U.S. invested heavily at the beginning and has scaled up manufacturing. It invested again and scaled up. Once the U.S. needs are met, those facilities really could be used to come online for the rest of the world, which could help stop the acute pandemic. Our goal would be by the end of this year to stop the acute pandemic, which is critical for global health security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So President Biden, though, he has an America first vaccine policy, which is we will not ship our doses out and donate them until Americans are fully vaccinated. That is the policy. The U.S. taxpayer has provided about four billion dollars, as you said. So what are you doing with the money you have now?
SETH BERKLEY: So the financing we have now is what we're using to pay for the more than two million doses we've ordered, but as I've explained, many of those are in the second half of the year. And it really is critical for countries that are now seeing new variants spread and seeing acute disease for them to get vaccines early, to protect their health workers, to protect their elderly and their most vulnerable. And that's really what we want to do as quickly as possible in every single country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So is there an alternative to the U.S.? I mean, China has gotten a lot of attention for its efforts to push its vaccine. Russia is trying to sell its vaccine to countries in Europe right now. Europe is really struggling itself, and that is a wealthy area. Is there an alternative to U.S. supply or do you really need America to step up?
SETH BERKLEY: So, I mean, there are many suppliers across the world. And it's not just the U.S. that has an opportunity to share doses they may not be using. So this is not about taking doses away from America. This is about strengthening America's--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SETH BERKLEY: --global health security by taking advantage of some vaccines that may not be used. So it is unlikely-- Tony Fauci said the other day that he thinks it's unlikely that the U.S. will ever get to the AstraZeneca vaccine--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SETH BERKLEY: --given the supplies it has of the other vaccine. So if that's the case and those vaccines can be made available quickly, that would then help other countries. For us, the challenge is making sure that the only vaccines that we use are ones that have high quality and we know are efficacious. So we require stringent regulatory approval. And that is why it's taken some time, because as new vaccines come online, they have to go through that complex regulatory process to make sure they're safe and effective, because if we had a problem with a vaccine, it could affect all vaccinations around the world. So we have to be very careful with safety as our key priority going forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor Berkley, good luck.
SETH BERKLEY: Thank you so much.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We appreciate your time today.
We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Native American communities have seen the highest rates of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths of any racial or ethnic group in this country. Jonathan Nez is president of the Navajo Nation, which considers itself the largest tribe by land and population and spans northeast Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Good morning to you.
JONATHAN NEZ (President, Navajo Nation/@NNPrezNez): Good morning, Margaret, and Happy Easter and Happy Resurrection Sunday to all your viewers.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for that. Why have indigenous people been hit so hard by COVID?
JONATHAN NEZ: Well, Margaret, I think this pandemic here has revealed some of the deficiencies in all of our health care systems throughout the country, more so in Native American communities. Four hundred-- over five hundred tribes throughout the country have been working hard to push back on this virus. And as many viewers may know, that the-- the Indian Health Service oversees, the health care system and the Indian Health Service has been underfunded since its inception. And so we are-- the health care professionals are utilizing the limited resources that they have, but they have been doing an outstanding job. And I want to say thank you to our health care workers here on the Navajo Nation, our frontline warriors, Indian Health Services and the Navajo Nation employees for doing an outstanding work pushing back on the virus and as well as bringing confidence to the vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. At the middle of last year, the Navajo Nation had a higher infection rate than any single state in the U.S. But you are saying you are, it seems, having some success with distributing the vaccine. How have you persuaded your community to take it?
JONATHAN NEZ: Well, right now, the Indian Health Service, the Navajo area here has received two hundred-- I'm sorry, two-hundred-and-forty-six-thousand-plus doses. And of those two hundred and nineteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one have gone into the arms of our Navajo people. That's 89.3 percent of what was given to the Nation are given to the Navajo people, eighty-eight thousand-- eighty-eight-- eight hundred and eighty-nine of our Navajo people are fully vaccinated. And I again just want to say thank you to our health care professionals. And we've been having town hall meetings as you may know. We had Doctor Fauci on our town hall meeting, Doctor Bourla from Pfizer, and just answering the Navajo people's questions about the virus and also our leaders taking the vaccine on television. I think just because of how hard hit the Navajo peop-- Navajo Nation was--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
JONATHAN NEZ: --we've seen a big increase in participation in taking the vaccine. So--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
JONATHAN NEZ: --I really commend the-- the people that have been fighting and pushing back on this virus. As you may know, Margaret, thirty to forty percent of our Navajo people don't have running water here in the most powerful country in the world. And that has contributed to the-- the high cases early on. But, you know, with the help of-- of everyone, including our congressional delegation--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
JONATHAN NEZ: --our leaders, you know, educating them, you know, they have been forthcoming with resources. And we see that in the American Rescue Plan Act that has been--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
JONATHAN NEZ: --recently approved.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That-- I just want to underscore that because it-- it was a shocking statistic when your communications director told us that thirty to forty percent of your people do not have running water. Do you have assurances on how the money will be spent, this federal aid that you're talking about? And, added to that, the Biden administration still doesn't have an appointed head of the Indian Health Services. So, why are you so confident these things are going to be addressed?
JONATHAN NEZ: Well, the acting director right now, Elizabeth Fowler, has been working directly with Navajo Nation, as well as we've been working straight with the White House. We have-- finally have a seat at the table here in getting our information and our advocacy addressed. And it's really, you know, with the funds that are coming to the citizens of this country in terms of recovery and rescue, this-- this time around, it's finally helping our nation grow. And it's all about nation building here in indigenous communities throughout the country and really focusing on self-determination. You know, our economy has been hit hard because we were able to implement some very strict protocols. You know, we had lockdowns. We have a mask mandate which helped-- which hurt our economy. But we are moving out of that high cases. And just a couple of weeks ago-- first time ever in six months we had zero cases and zero deaths in twenty-four hours. So I commend the Navajo people for listening to the health care professionals and their leaders. And I wish that other jurisdictions throughout the country would do the same.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. The CDC says Native Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, have a greater prevalence of obesity and alcoholism, and are more likely to be smokers. All of these things are a recipe for susceptibility to COVID-19. What are you doing to promote a healthy-- healthier life-- lifestyle?
JONATHAN NEZ: Well, in indigenous communities, we are returning back to a lot of our teaching. If you look through our world lens, our world view, you know, a lot of our teaching can really push back on these health issues. Some of these-- we call them monsters here on the Navajo Nation, these modern-day monsters; alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide. And we are really encouraging our-- our Navajo citizens to return to some of our teachings, our way of life teachings--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
JONATHAN NEZ: --so that we could be able to push back. And I think that is one of the big reasons on the Navajo Nation we were able to push back on this virus. It wasn't about restricting people's freedoms when we told people to wear a mask or to stay home. It was looking at the greater good and the greater good here was to protect your family, protect your community. And I think because of that, we were able to let our people know that we will get through this pandemic just as we have gone through some very tough times in our history. And all indigenous peoples, I guess all five-finger beings have some, you know, difficult times in their history and more so in Native American communities. But I just want to highlight, Margaret, that, you know, indigenous people throughout the country are very resilient, even though sometimes--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
JONATHAN NEZ: --the federal government is slow to react in the Indian country. But we didn't roll over. We didn't give up. We fought hard--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
JONATHAN NEZ: --and I commend the Navajo citizens for doing their best to push back this virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. President Nez, good luck. Thank you for your time this morning.
JONATHAN NEZ: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Arrivals of unaccompanied children at the southern border reached an all-time monthly high in March, and the pace of migrants crossing the border does not appear to be slowing down. Sister Norma Pimentel is executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and she joins us this Easter morning. Happy Easter, sister.
SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL (Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley/@nspimentel): Thank you, Margaret. Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So for our audience, I just want to describe your organization, the role you play. You provide assistance to migrants who are seeking refuge here in the U.S. They often meet you after they've been released from U.S. custody and told to come back for a court appearance in the future when they're asking for asylum. I'm wondering, since you have been on the border for so long, what you are seeing with your own eyes right now. What are migrants like when they are arriving here?
NORMA PIMENTEL: Yes, what I'm seeing today is what we've seen already for several years back, surges of families arriving to our border that leave their country because what's happening in their country has not changed. It continues to be a place where they are afraid to be there for their children. And so what we see a lot here at the border since 2014, we saw it in great surges, children unaccompanied and families, moms with their kids. And even in 2019, and throughout-- up to-- in today, it's no different. We're seeing it again. And so it's just families that are hopeful that entering the United States, they may be safe and that's what they're looking for. And it's not-- it's not different. And that's why we have so many children here at the border now again.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What state are the migrants arriving in?
NORMA PIMENTEL: You know, the-- the conditions that they arrived, you know, in 2014, it was devastating what I was seeing with the-- the-- the-- the families and the children dirty and muddy and crying and dehydrating and scared. And-- and today they are-- they definitely are, you can see it in their faces that they're scared that they've been through so much, but they're-- they're hopeful, you know, hopeful that maybe now they have a chance to be somewhere safe because they have been through a lot. This journey that they take from their country through all along the path they go through, people taking advantage of them, you can see it in their faces and-- and-- and what they've been through. And having to wait in Mexico for so long also makes them very vulnerable and-- and at high risk.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What you are referring to there is the so-called Remain in Mexico policy that President Biden just lifted, when you said they were asked to remain there. As-- as you know, immigration is so politically fraught and President Biden has been heavily criticized for lifting that Trump-era policy, also for allowing migrant children who arrive unaccompanied to stay here, even though on-- on paper the policy is to push back during the pandemic anyone coming to claim asylum. I know you're not political, but I'm wondering what you think is driving migration right now. Is it the message from the U.S. or is it what's happening at home?
NORMA PIMENTEL: You know, it-- the message from what is happening in the United States is just utilized by those who take advantage of these families, who exploit these families, who-- who try to use them, whatever is happening here, to convince them that whether it's who-- no matter who is in office, no matter what's happening here, it's used to their advantage to get these families and encourage them to come. You know, and because they're desperate to leave their country because of the situations that are there. It's almost as if we've never seen it addressed. The root causes, why these families come are going to continue to come and we're going to continue to see these surges and these great numbers of children, especially children, here at our border. And-- and the traffickers they use this to their advantage. And so it doesn't matter whether or who is in office or what is happening here, the message is twisted and-- and used for their advantage. And so I think that contributes a lot why these families are all of a sudden surges at some points and then others, you know, and of course, there are so many factors involved, but that may be one of them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Biden administration has outsourced a good deal of the COVID testing to local agencies and to organizations like yours. I know you have to provide a lot of these services. How challenging is that? What kind of resources do you need?
NORMA PIMENTEL: You know, there's so many families arriving, so many children, and so being able to provide hundreds and hundreds of toothpaste, toothbrushes, just basic things a-- a person needs just to be okay is-- is-- it's a challenge in itself. But thanks to the generosity of so many people that reach out and say, how can I help you? And-- and even the present government is-- is reaching out and wanting to help as well. So I think that-- that-- that together we can respond and we can address what is happening at the border. And that's what's happening right now. Definitely the numbers are high and I can see why the children are not being sent back because of the fact that they run a big risk. You have to keep the child safe. And-- and especially if they're unaccompanied, they can-- you cannot just send them back like they're sending everybody else. They have to be protected. They want to-- they need to be processed correctly to make sure they are handed over to the-- the right family member. And so that's why we're seeing such high numbers of children right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Time magazine referred to you as the Pope's Favorite Nun. I know when you met him a few years back, you presented him with a painting of a mother and child. I-- I wonder what your message to him was about this unique part of America and whether you would like the current President and vice president to come down and meet with you at the border.
NORMA PIMENTEL: I always encourage everyone to come down and see for themselves, because if you get close enough, like I get close enough to the families and accompany them and see for yourself, you can be able to really, truly understand better what is happening and-- and feel what I feel so that we can reach out to help, you know, because honestly, this is-- should not be about politics. It needs to be about people, because that's what we're seeing here at the border. And I-- the Holy Father's recognition was recognizing all of us doing what we were doing, where we reach out to those that we see--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
NORMA PIMENTEL: --before us suffering. And-- and so I-- I certainly hope that our--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
NORMA PIMENTEL: --present President joins us and comes down and-- and accompanies us--
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
NORMA PIMENTEL: --so that he can see for himself.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, sister, for your time today. Good luck to you.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will continue to explore inequity in America as best as we can, and we will try to look at solutions for closing the gaps. Thank you for watching, and wish all of you who celebrate Easter a very happy one. We'll see you next Sunday. I'm Margaret Brennan for FACE THE NATION.