According to The Washington Post, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn to hand in his resignation if his agency fails to approve emergency authorization to the first coronavirus vaccine by the end of Friday.
The revelation came from “people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened,” The Post reported.
The threat came on the same day that President Trump tweeted that the FDA is “a big, old, slow turtle” in its handling of vaccines, while exhorting Commissioner Stephen Hahn to “get the dam vaccines out NOW.” He added: “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”
The warning led the FDA to accelerate its timetable for clearing America’s first vaccine from Saturday morning to later Friday.
The warning, combined with the tweets, constituted the latest attack by Trump, who has complained vociferously that the vaccine wasn’t authorized before Election Day, blaming it on the ‘Deep State’ inside the agency that he accused of working against his reelection. Trump was also said to be upset that Britain cleared the vaccine before the United States, although the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been developed and reviewed in record time.
The FDA and Pfizer reportedly are now rushing to complete the paperwork for authorization, sped up from a Saturday morning timetable.
An FDA statement issued early Friday morning said the FDA had informed Pfizer that it would “rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization” following Thursday’s endorsement of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by an agency advisory committee.
The threat injects politics once more into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans. It comes in the midst of a process that had been designed to show no shortcuts were taken in reviewing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine.
The Post said that it’s “whether a decision on the vaccine on a Friday night would do anything to speed up the delivery of the first vaccine doses.”
Image credit: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour / Public Domain