In This Episode
- The FDA authorized the first new versions of the Covid-19 vaccines since they were introduced in late 2020, and the updated formulations target the newest Omicron subvariants. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and host of Crooked’s “America Dissected,” tells us what we need to know about the new shots.
- And in headlines: U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, NASA announced a new launch date for the Artemis I mission, and a scorching heat wave continued its grip on the West Coast.
- Vote Save America: Fuck Bans Action Plan – https://votesaveamerica.com/roe/
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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, September 1st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is, What A Day where we’re thanking Leonardo DiCaprio for the small amount of stability he’s providing us by continuing to break up with girls before their 26th birthday.
Priyanka Aribindi: In a time of chaos, it is comforting to have consistent patterns, even if that pattern is distasteful and very weird. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Thank you, Leo. We really appreciate it. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the Justice Department said Donald Trump and his legal team tried to hide classified material from the FBI. That is a no no. Plus, Sarah Palin lost her shot at a political comeback.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first updated COVID vaccines since they first became available in late 2020. Priyanka, what can you tell us about these new shots?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so the FDA gave the green light to the revamped Pfizer and Moderna shots. Both companies have been working on them and they target the Omicron variant, which has been the dominant strain in the U.S. since late last year.
Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll get into more specifics in just a minute. But we’ve reported that these new shots have been in the works for quite some time. Why did the FDA choose to authorize them now?
Priyanka Aribindi: So unfortunately, another surge in cases is expected to hit this fall and winter. So the thinking really is that this authorization can give us enough time to start rolling out these vaccines, get people vaccinated before, you know, we’re in the thick of it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. We wanted to learn more about these new and we hope improved shots. So we called up our favorite expert, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and host of Crooked’s America Dissected. Dr. Abdul, welcome back to What A Day.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Always a privilege to be with you all, except for yet again, [laugh] I am summoned on on a remembrance of the fact that there is still a pandemic happening, although potentially good news on that front.
Priyanka Aribindi: Potentially. Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Let’s jump right on in. We all saw the alerts on our phone. Tell us a little bit about what’s new with these booster shots. Why do we need them? Give it to us.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Tre’vell, it’s a little bit of new and a little bit of old. What these new boosters do is they combine it’s called a bivalent vaccine, meaning that there are two levels. One is the same old vaccine that we’ve been receiving. If you’ve been vaccinated, if you haven’t by now, please do that. And then the second is a reformulated vaccine targeting BA.5 and one of its other highly contagious cousins. And the reason why they’ve gone with a bivalent vaccine this time around is because we know that BA.5 is causing the bulk of cases right now. And we also know that every single year of the pandemic, there has been a big bump in the fall. And so folks are expecting that the surge that we’re going to see in the fall is likely to be a BA.5 surge, but that’s not definite. And in some respects, we’re chasing a virus that moves really, really quickly, and it’s forced vaccine manufacturers and regulators to try and move at the speed of the virus. But of course, vaccine manufacturer and vaccine research and development does not usually move at that speed. And so it’s not that they aren’t taking the necessary checks, but they are trying to streamline the process. And that is a departure from where we’ve been on this set of vaccines for the past.
Priyanka Aribindi: How soon are these boosters going to be available? Who is eligible to get them this time around? What do we need to know about like actually getting these shots?
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Well, the process involves the FDA who’s made their ruling and then the CDC who makes a recommendation. And so the CDC is set to meet. So we can expect that they’re going to recommend these vaccines, considering where the FDA has been. And the federal government was planning to ship out this new Bivalent booster as soon as the FDA had ruled. And so those should be en route. And so, in theory, we should be able to get them as soon as the CDC has met and made the recommendation that they are very likely to make.
Priyanka Aribindi: All right. So really speedy here. It’s all happening.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. And you sort of think about where we are, right? There’s a lot of things that happen in the fall. The weather changes. In Michigan where I am, you are already starting to see leaves turn colors, which is a sad reminder that fall is on its way. But then kids go back to school in the fall and so you have a lot more folks coming together. And so the recognition here is that much of that is what has driven fall surges. The FDA and the CDC want to get ahead of that. That’s why they’re moving with the quickness here.
Tre’vell Anderson: Speaking of fall surges, we’ve heard from a variety of health experts about this possibility coming, especially with the newer Omicron sub variants fueling so many new cases. BA.5 for instance, now accounts for 90% of all cases in the U.S.. I want to know, why has it taken so long for the FDA to even approve these new shots? We’ve been living at this thing for a little minute Abdul okay. I would think that these types of decisions would come a little quicker.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: That’s a really good expectation Tre’vell. But you also have to remember that we’re already moving at light speed in vaccine years. Like this is as fast as it goes. In fact, this is going to be the first iteration of the vaccine that hasn’t been tested in humans. It’s the same thing that we do with the flu vaccine. We know that the flu platform is safe and effective. So we just sort of take a look at what flu viruses and variants are spreading every year. And then we reformulate the vaccine and we push it out. And it’s the same thing that’s happening here. So remember, every single vaccine booster that’s been approved by the FDA, recommended by the CDC, has had human trial data backing it. This is the first time that they’re not doing that. The other point here is that it’s a sort of wait and see moment. Right now, we have a lot of BA.5 spreading and we’re moving into the fall, but that wasn’t necessarily the scenario that was destined to occur. It’s plausible that there could have been a different variant that could have started spreading into the fall. And so okaying a BA.5 booster may not have been the best use of the firepower, the limited firepower that vaccine manufacturers had if they had okayed a BA.5 booster and then all of a sudden there’s a different variant that’s spreading into the fall and we sort of missed the boat. And so we’re sort of now in a scenario with the COVID vaccines that we’ve been in with the flu vaccines for a long time, which is that we’re trying our best to meet the virus where it’s headed. And given that we’re headed into the fall, BA.5 is the predominant variant that’s circulating, we can be somewhat assured that BA.5 is likely to be spreading in the fall and that we can get ahead of it. But there’s always the possibility here that we’re just wrong, that the virus sees us juking right and it jukes left and you get a whole different set of variants that emerge. And we’ve now been boosted ahead of a variant that’s no longer the dominant variant. And so it really is a game of chicken between um vaccine manufacturers and the virus. And right now we think that we’re heading the virus off where it looks to be headed, given that there’s no more dominant variant than BA.5 that we see coming. The other part of this is that it’s bivalent for a reason. There’s a reason that this isn’t just a BA.5 Booster, that it’s half old booster and half new booster, uh because at least giving another dose of the old booster should protect us against a broader set of potential variations. Given that the virus is sort of moving in this direction with BA.5. We want to sort of cover our flank even as we try and head the virus off where it’s headed.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. Knocking on wood that that is all correct. The virus is going in the same direction as these boosters because what a disaster, if not, but a little different here. You have options. There’s the Pfizer and the Moderna version of this booster. Does it matter between the two, which one you get? Is there evidence that one is more effective than the other or is it kind of whatever is available to you, get that?
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I will tell you that my strategy, I’ve been triple vaxxed with Pfizer. I think I’ll go ahead and get a Moderna this time around just because I’m showing my body a different look on the same set of general antigens. It’s kind of like, you know, when you train your iPhone to see your face, you’ve got to show it different angles of your face. It’s the same face.
Priyanka Aribindi: Love it.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: But you’re just giving it different views. And the view that Moderna gives you versus the view that Pfizer gives you of the face of the virus, maybe a little bit different. And so I’m just going to give my body a different view of the face of the virus. So I’ve done three Pfizer. I think I’m a go ahead and do Moderna this time.
Priyanka Aribindi: Great way to think about it. We’re not being brand loyal. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Alright. So the National Center for Health Statistics recently reported that the life expectancy rate for Americans sharply declined in 2020 and 2021. COVID being a major driver of that. Speaking of boosters, we know that booster uptake is still lagging overall. And in some communities, the rates are still pretty low. I mean, I got my booster, but we’re not talking about me. Are you worried? Is the community worried with this other round of booster coming that there will be even less enthusiasm?
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Tre’vell, that’s a really astute question. And if you look at uptake rates, about 70% of the population has had two doses, about 30% of the population has had three doses. So if you think about following that trend, it’s unlikely. I mean, I hope everyone goes out and gets this, but it’s unlikely that many people are going to jump up and go get this fourth dose, the second booster. Even more than that, the people who are most likely to get it are the people who are most likely to have had three doses already. So the overall impact on hospitalization rates and on rates of death are not likely to be all that big, considering the fact that you’re getting relatively low uptake among people who are the most protected to begin with. You know, this is a moment right now as we are facing down a potential fall surge. It’s a moment right now to remind the folks in your life who may not yet have gotten vaccinated that we’re not out of the woods. And as much as Congress is reticent to fund uh even this next set of doses, as much as all of our politicians want to have turned the page. We’re not done with this. There’s a real risk that you’ll have gotten through nearly three years of COVID and it can still clip you on the back end. So, you know, I know that most of the listeners of the show have probably gotten vaccinated at least twice. But there are always loved ones that we have access to. And the thing I would tell you is that if you’re expecting to have a conversation with someone where at the end of the conversation, they look up and say, thank you so much for enlightening me. I’m so grateful that you shared your wisdom. That’s usually not how it works.
Priyanka Aribindi: Never had a conversation like that in my life. [laughing]
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: No. Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Not once.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: It’s not how it works, but like we all want it to be that way. And so instead what you got to do is I always sort of think about it as like blowing those little Amazonian darts. You just got to make them think a little bit. Right. Make sure it hits and make them think a little bit so that when they walk out of that conversation, it’s not about proving you wrong. It’s about being able to be right. And if we have those conversations enough with the people that we know and love, you really can save lives. And so as much as our conversation today is about a fourth booster and many of us are going to line up to go get that. The biggest danger is still among those people who haven’t had yet one dose. And if we can be a positive impact on their lives by maybe having a little bit of humility and just telling them how much we love them and why we care for them and why the risk is not yet done. Maybe we can have an impact, and I hope that folks will go out and do that.
Priyanka Aribindi: I have one more really quickly before we wrap up and just maybe a little practical question for our listeners who have been vaccinated and have since had COVID maybe a couple of times, not speaking for our entire team, but might be several of us. I’ll use myself as an example. I haven’t had it super recently. I don’t. The last time maybe was May that I had COVID, but you know, I’ve had it a couple of times. Is this still something that should be high priority on my list of to dos to get this booster or is this something I could push out for a little bit or do I not have to worry about it? How should I be thinking about this booster if I’ve been initially vaccinated and then have since had COVID?
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: So from what we understand, immunity from either an infection or a booster tends to be most pronounced within three months of that event. And so if you had it in May, you’re now more than three months out.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And if I were you, I would definitely get the booster. The other point is that the end outcomes that we’re most focused on are obviously hospitalization and death, but we also know that long COVID is out there, that it’s affecting you know, there are some estimates that suggest upwards of 20% of people who have been infected.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And even if you’ve been infected a couple of times, it doesn’t mean that a third infection, for example, won’t be what ultimately creates or gives you long lasting outcomes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And so there is still an incentive to do what you can to prevent or at least lower your risk of infection. And I know folks listening will say, well, you know, I’ve been triple vaxxed and I got COVID. Yes, that’s true. But this still does lower your risk of serious infection and certainly lowers your risk of hospitalization and death on the back end.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. I just had COVID like three or four weeks ago. I got my antibodies, but I will be lining up to get my booster just as well. As always, thank you so much for joining us Dr. Abdul.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Always my privilege. Tre’vell and Priyanka you all stay well, stay healthy and go get boosted. Okay?
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Be sure to check out America Dissected wherever you get your podcasts and Dr. Abdul’s YouTube channel, more context, less conflict, where every week he covers different public health topics and everything else going on in our crazy world.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: The Justice Department released what the law enforcement community describes as receipts late Tuesday night in its ongoing dispute with Donald Trump. In a revealing 36 page court filing, the DOJ said that sensitive government documents were, quote, “likely concealed and removed from a storage area at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate after the department issued a subpoena against him last year to get them back”. That has led federal prosecutors to believe that Trump and his legal team actively tried to obstruct their investigation. The filing also included a photo of some folders taken in August, which were laid out on the, you know, very tacky carpet that is there. And several of them are clearly marked top secret. Meanwhile, Trump’s legal team has said essentially that those kinds of documents are to be expected. If you were to rummage through a former president’s office, I bet if we were to go to Barack Obama’s office, it would mostly be like Netflix stuff, and like his nature documentary. [laughter] But sure, this all comes in response to Trump’s request for an independent review of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago last month. A federal judge is expected to weigh in on that today.
Tre’vell Anderson: Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine yesterday and said they plan to establish a permanent presence at the city’s embattled nuclear plant. The agency’s chief said on Wednesday the team will be there to, quote, “prevent a nuclear accident”, which–
Priyanka Aribindi: –We sure hope.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, we don’t want any nuclear accidents. This comes after U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the visit weeks ago when reports of shelling near the facility first started. It’s unclear exactly how long Russian and Ukrainian forces will let them stay. Inspectors will visit the actual nuclear plant today, though the team will need a few days to survey the entire site.
Priyanka Aribindi: Look out Moon because NASA announced yesterday that the Artemis one mission is back on track after their first attempt to launch the megarocket was scrapped earlier this week. Officials plan to try again on Saturday. So break out the popcorn, everybody.
Tre’vell Anderson: Second time’s the charm.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is a famous saying that several people are saying.
Tre’vell Anderson: Labor Day may celebrate the strength of our nation’s unions. But there’s one boss they have no power over the evil, evil hot sun. She’ll be out in full force in the West this weekend, as we’ve said on the show before. With temperatures expected to reach 115 degrees in the Central Valley by Monday. The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures of 126 degrees in Death Valley on Monday and Tuesday, which would be a record for September. Hopefully only lizards and hard shelled bugs are there to celebrate this historic achievement.
Priyanka Aribindi: Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., is learning a hard lesson about what happens when you let Mark Zuckerberg steal all of your ideas. The company laid off around 20% of its 6400 employees yesterday amid financial struggles. The company also appointed a new chief operating officer for the first time in seven years and canceled several high profile projects, including Snapchat originals. Apart from having its central innovation of stories ripped off by Instagram and many others, Snapchat’s business was hit hard by recent privacy changes from Apple that made ad tracking more difficult. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said that the layoffs and restructuring were necessary to ensure long term success for the company. And they better not slip because we all know that BeReal can smell blood. It’s coming. It’s coming. I mean, I don’t know how to monetize, but I’m sure they’ll find a way.
Tre’vell Anderson: They will find a way. A twisted mash up of children’s books, horror movies and the specifics of intellectual property law is on its way. Yesterday, the trailer debuted for Winnie the Pooh, Blood and Honey, an upcoming indie slasher movie that takes advantage of Winnie’s recent shift into the public domain. The copyrights for Winnie and Piglet lapsed in January, and a couple of British filmmakers wasted no time reimagining the soft, adorable and partially nude animals as deranged killers. They’re motivated by revenge after Christopher Robin abandoned them in the woods. And along the way, based on the trailer, they seem to kill at least one woman in a hot tub. If your nostalgic attachment was specifically to Pooh’s friends Eeyore and Tigger, this movie will leave your childhood memories intact thankfully. The filmmakers left those two out this time around, since Disney still holds a copyright that could protect them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Listen. Uh. Killing one woman in a hot tub is one too many for me, so I’m not down. [laughter] I’m not going to be watching this. Lastly, Sarah Palin continued her losing streak, which includes both the 2008 vice presidential race and the masked singer season three. Lest we forget, vote totals released yesterday show the former Alaska governor coming in second in the state’s ranked choice House special election, trailing Democrat Mary Peltola. Peltola’s win will make her the first Alaska native at Congress. But it’s only for four months, which is how much time remains in the term of late Republican Representative Don Young. In November, Peltola, Palin and others will compete for the seat once again. So if you voted in this election, you turned out, you got to do it one more time. Because, listen, you came close enough to having this woman in the house. We don’t need to come that close again.
Tre’vell Anderson: I just love the fact that she keeps running. There’s some chutzpah there or something. Resilience. Okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: One more thing before we go. The midterms are coming up. So it goes without saying. We’re drinking a whole lot of coffee. With Crooked coffee your daily cup can fuel both you and your democracy because a portion of the proceeds from every order go to Register Her. To register millions of women across the country to vote. We have a dark roast and a medium roast. Both are delicious, whether you like it hot or cold. And for you cold brew fans out there, we see you because our very own cold brewer sold out in just two weeks. Sign up to be the first to know when it’s back in stock at Crooked.com/Coffee. And hey, while you’re there, you can grab a bag of coffee or two and go ahead and sign up for a monthly subscription to save 25% off your coffee delivery every month.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, show solidarity against the sun and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading and not just receipts from the DOJ like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And stay losing Sarah Palin.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sure there’s another season of Masked Singer you can join.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh wow. We don’t want any more of that. I’m sorry. [laugh]
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, I won’t be watching. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.