Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in on India’s COVID-19 crisis

The CNN chief medical correspondent also explains why he believes outdoor masks aren’t necessary and talks about his new special, "Race for the Vaccine.”
9:25 | 05/13/21

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Transcript for Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in on India’s COVID-19 crisis
Always a pleasure to have you. Let's jump in. We're seeing all the images coming out of India. It's devastating. For you it's personal because you have family there. What are you hearing from them? How is everyone coping? It's a tough situation, whoopi. Thank you for having me by the way. I have a lot of family living in New Delhi. Most of my extended family lives there. I had a close family member, an uncle, who passed away a couple weeks ago. Healthy guy. 71 years old. Got sick on Tuesday and passed away at the end of the week. It was quite shocking. People are frightened. It's been whiplash in part because just a month ago or in March they were told it was essentially over. People started to really go out and let their guard down and get together in large groups. About 2 to 3% of the country only is vaccinated. The virus went into exponential growth again. That's what happens. It doesn't gradually build up. If it's happening, all of a sudden lots of infections are spreading and it shoots up. That's what we're seeing in I'm so sorry for your loss. Some are suggesting we don't vaccinate our children here and send those millions of doses to hard-hit regions overseas. Given the limited supply, what do you think about this idea and should we support this? This is a really -- it's a complicated issue, Sara. There's an obligation for wealthier countries to make sure other parts of the world are vaccinated. It's a worldwide event. Viruses spread. They don't care about borders. They just spread. At what point do you do that? The United States has given $4 billion to covax to support that. They are donating vaccines to countries. The astrazeneca vaccines, they're giving those away to other countries. The focus on getting to immunity in this country is still the goal. I think that can be done and give vaccines and support vaccination efforts in other countries. I have this metaphor, it's like when the oxygen masks fall down on the airplane they tell you to put your own mask on first before helping others so you can best assist others. That's the foreign policy approach that the United States takes when it comes to vaccinations. Help for sure, but make sure you're in the best position possible to help in the first place. Here in the U.S. It seems that vaccines are readily accessible. According to the CDC over 35% of the population has been vaccinated. Although covid cases then are decreasing, of the people not yet vaccinated only 11% say they'll definitely get the shot. 60% are saying they probably won't or definitely won't. States are now turning away doses because there isn't enough demand, which is really incredible in my view. Sanjay, does this concern you? I got to say it's such an interesting thing. Going back to India for a second, I was having this conversation with my dad. My uncle who died was not had he been vaccinated he wouldn't have died. Simple as that. They really want these vaccines. My dad moved to this country and was able to get vaccinated. By virtue of the fact he lives here he was able to get it. These vaccines being turned away in the United States people are on their hands and knees begging for it in other countries. These vaccines are so effective and they can really save your life. It's critically important. I don't know. This is not a new problem, vaccine hesitancy. I've been reporting on vaccine hesitancy for 20 years. There's always some degree of hesitancy. In order to best free ourselves of what's been a very traumatic terrible time, vaccines are certainly a way out. I know that that's not necessarily going to convince the 11% of people you're talking about, but look at what the vaccines could potentially do in terms of changing our lives. I have three kids by the way, all ages 12 to 15. They came to me wanting the vaccine. They weren't they worried about getting sick, but just being able to open up the doors of their life again was so Dr. Gupta, a lot of people feel the goal posts keep moving on returning to normal life. We were told vaccines would set us free, but fully vaccinated people like me are still being asked to follow strict guidelines like mask wearing, and Dr. Fauci says he's still not comfortable eating inside a restaurant, even though he's fully vaccinated. I've almost given up trying to figure out the messaging. I want to be respectful, but I want to go back to life. I was told if I got vaccinated I could go back to life. But are the experts not following their own science on this? You're right in a lot of ways, Meghan. The science is the science. A year ago we were having a conversation saying people aren't following the science and as a result they're not doing things. Now in part as a result of not following the science we're probably doing things we don't need to do. The science is the science. It's not perfect. It keeps changing. Mask wearing outdoors is not necessary. We didn't know that a year ago. Now we know there's probably been no cases or very, very few cases of outdoor transmission. Mask wearing outdoors is not necessary if you're vaccinated and if you're not vaccinated it doesn't appear to be necessary. That's a significant difference. That's what the science shows. It will jar people to hear that. I'm a big proponent of mask wearing. I think indoor mask wearing is tricky for two reasons. You still have about two thirds of the country not fully vaccinated. Don't know who is and isn't vaccinated. If you're in an indoor setting with people you don't know, you could be around unvaccinated the second thing is we know the vaccines are so effective at preventing you from getting they could save your life. My parents are vaccinated. They worried if they got this they would get really sick and hospitalized and maybe die. They're 95% protected. That's incentive. You could still carry the virus even if you've been vaccinated. Today you may have heard there were seven members of the Yankees organization all fully vaccinated. They get tested routinely and seven of them tested positive for the virus. They're not likely to get sick, but could they spread the virus? That's the big concern. Meghan, I guess the answer is, yes, ultimately we'll get back to normal. There's a lot of normal things already. The weight of the world of feeling like I'm not going to die from this virus is a significant burden lifted. As we get more of the country vaccinated and when cases drop below 10,000 cases per day, at that point the idea you would still be exposed to the virus becomes so low that at that point it's essentially normal. We don't need to wear masks anymore. All right. Well, you know, Sanjay, don't go anywhere. Y'all go away and come back and we'll do more with Dr. Sanjay Gupta when we come back. , So does my Oral-B. 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This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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