US President Donald Trump and Stephen Hahn, Director of the Food and Drug Administration, attend the daily meeting of the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on April 24, 2020.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has urged the head of the Food and Drug Administration to resign if the agency does not clear Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use by the end of the day, the Washington Post reported Friday.
The warning prompted FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and the agency to accelerate their schedule for the release of America’s first Covid-19 vaccine from Saturday morning to late Friday, according to the Post, citing anonymous sources.
The New York Times, Axios and Reuters also reported that Meadows asked Hahn to resign if he wasn’t quick enough to remove the vaccine.
In a statement, Hahn called the Post’s report “an untrue account”.
“This is an untrue representation of the telephone conversation with the chief of staff,” Hahn told CNBC on Friday afternoon. “The FDA has been encouraged to continue working swiftly on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EEA request. The FDA is committed to swiftly granting this approval, as we noted in our statement this morning.”
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The reports come a day after a key FDA advisory body voted 17-4, with one abstention, to recommend the vaccine, which Pfizer partnered with BioNTech, for emergency approval. The FDA typically follows the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products. After the overwhelming vote, the FDA should release the vaccine on Friday.
Hahn said earlier that day the agency was “working fast” to clear Pfizer’s emergency vaccine. “The agency has also notified the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the warp speed of the operation so that they can implement their plans for timely vaccine distribution,” Hahn said in a joint statement with Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Shortly after Hahn ’s remarks, President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged the FDA to speed up the vaccine development process, tweeted the agency,” Get the dam vaccines out NOW. “
“Stop playing and save lives !!!”
FDA approval would mark a record breaking timeframe for a process that typically takes about a decade. The fastest vaccine development to date for mumps took more than four years and was licensed in 1967. Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine in March and filed an application with the FDA for emergency clearance in November.
An emergency permit, or EEA, is not the same as a full permit, which can typically take months. Pfizer has only submitted safety data for two months, but it typically takes the agency six months for full approval.
– CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.