As the Food and Drug Administration continues to assess the safety of the first coronavirus vaccine, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows relayed a chilling message to the agency’s leader: Accelerate its approval or submit your resignation. According to The Washington Post, Meadows threatened FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn’s job on Friday morning, prompting the agency to bring forward its timetable for authorizing emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine from Saturday morning to late Friday. Axios and The New York Times confirmed the report. The threat came on the same day President Trump slammed the FDA for being “a big, old, slow turtle” and demanded Hahn “get the dam vaccines out NOW.” “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!” Trump tweeted.
The United Kingdom and Canada granted emergency-use authorization of the vaccine days ago. After a marathon meeting Thursday, an advisory board whose lead the FDA traditionally follows backed the vaccine, signaling that authorization was imminent. In a statement to Axios, Hahn called the account “an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff” and said the FDA was working “expeditiously.” A White House official declined to comment on the exchange.