Trump Aide Threatens FDA to OK Vaccine

Agency chief Stephen Hahn told to resign if it's not done by end of the day
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2020 1:57 PM CST
White House to FDA Boss: Approve Vaccine Friday or Quit
Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies in the Senate in September.   (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP, File)

The FDA and Pfizer were scrambling Friday to announce approval of the coronavirus vaccine after a threat from the White House. President Trump's chief of staff told the agency's commissioner to resign if the vaccine isn't cleared by the end of the day, the Washington Post reports. An FDA advisory panel had approved it Thursday for emergency use, and the agency had planned to do the same Saturday morning. That schedule has been revised after Mark Meadows' communication with FDA chief Stephen Hahn, resulting in the FDA and Pfizer trying to complete the paperwork required. Earlier Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Good Morning America that the FDA was moving to announce its approval in "a couple of days," per the Hill.

That's longer than the president wanted to wait, though the vaccine already was reaching the market at unprecedented speed, per the Post. "Get the dam (sic) vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn," Trump tweeted Friday. "Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!" The FDA's process is intended to ensure a thorough review of the vaccine's safety and effectiveness. But the president already was upset that Britain approved the vaccine first. The White House declined to comment on Meadows' threat, saying it doesn't comment on private conversations, but added that "the Chief regularly requests updates on progress toward a vaccine." Trump said in his tweet that the pressure he's put on the FDA has taken five years off the approval process for "numerous great new vaccines." Still, he said, the agency is "a big, old, slow turtle." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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