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Interview with CDC’s Walensky puts AP ahead on virus news

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poses during an interview with The Associated Press in Atlanta, Dec. 8, 2021. Walensky discussed early analysis of the omicron variant, as well as booster vaccine policy for some teenagers. Walensky said that cases of the omicron variant have been reported in the U.S. so far, with most of them people who were vaccinated and nearly all of them suffering only mild illness, Walensky said Wednesday. ​(AP Photo / Brynn Anderson)

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AP health and science journalists Mike Stobbe and Shelby Lum, New York-based video journalist David Martin and Atlanta photographer Brynn Anderson collaborated on a significant edition of “The AP Interview” newsmaker series. AP’s conversation with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put the AP ahead on two developments during a busy week of virus coverage.

First, Walensky discussed research into the omicron variant, revealing that a CDC report would detail that early cases appeared to be mild. Second, she gave the AP exclusive comments on her decision to allow booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for several million 16- and 17-year-olds.

Those comments — on an embargo basis a day ahead of the official announcement — let the AP publish video almost immediately after the announcement. Stobbe’s strong relationship with the CDC also allowed AP to report the decision 10 minutes before the agency’s press release went out,putting the AP ahead of the competition.

Strong prep work by South Deputy News Director Alex Sanz helped the AP churn out multiple video edits for newsrooms and consumers,and the all-formats package included Anderson’s distinctive portraits of Walensky.

The interview was cited by major news outlets,and video by Lum and Martin was used by ABC’s flagship morning show, “Good Morning America.”

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poses during an interview with The Associated Press in Atlanta, Dec. 8, 2021. – AP Photo / Brynn Anderson
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