The Trump administration threatened to oust the head of the FDA if the Pfizer vaccine isn't cleared by the end of Friday, new report says

  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reportedly pressured FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to announce the emergency authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the day on Friday.
  • Meadows gave Hahn an ultimatum: Either move up the announcement or submit his resignation, according to The Washington Post.
  • This comes after President Donald Trump went after the agency on Twitter earlier in the morning, calling it "a big, old, slow turtle."
  • Hahn denied the Post's report shortly after it was published, calling it "untrue," while the White House declined to comment.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US Food and Drug Administration and Pfizer are reportedly trying to move up the announcement of the company's COVID-19 vaccine after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows threatened the agency commissioner's job.

On Friday, Meadows delivered an ultimatum to the commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, telling him to either make the announcement green lighting the vaccine by the end of the day or submit his resignation, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump lashed out at the agency on Twitter , describing it "a big, old, slow turtle."

Hahn denied the report, calling it "untrue" in a statement to Business Insider. 

"This is an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff," he said. "The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech's EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning."

The White House, meanwhile, declined to comment to the Post.

Following the conversation between Hahn and Meadows, the FDA and Pfizer's timeline for the vaccine announcement was "accelerated from Saturday morning," according to Post reporters Josh Dawsey and Laurie McGinley, citing an anonymous source involved who was not authorized to discuss the plans.

Pfizer submitted its two-dose shot for FDA emergency approval on November 20. The regulatory body has expedited its review process, which typically takes a minimum of six to 10 months for any experimental medicine.

Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA's biologics review center, which is overseeing the COVID-19 vaccine application, previously told Business Insider that the review would still take weeks.

The deliberation process, which included a public meeting of independent experts on Thursday, was tailored to bolster the public's confidence in the end result. Polling has shown a significant chunk of Americans — perhaps as much as 40% or 50% of the country — have reservations about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

"Everything that we are trying to do here, this is all about ensuring the public re-develops the kind of trust they once had in vaccines," Marks said.

The FDA's expert panel voted 17-4 on Thursday in favor of issuing an emergency authorization. That was seen as the final barrier before the agency could issue the official OK, which was expected to come either Friday night or Saturday.

The UK, Canada, and Bahrain have issued emergency authorization for Pfizer's shot ahead of the US.


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