Sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that in a phone call Friday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested to Hahn that his work could be online if his agency did not allow the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the day.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared by the FDA on Friday evening.
“The statements in the press that I have been threatened with being fired if we do not do so by a certain date are inaccurate,” Hahn told reporters on a call Saturday morning.
Hahn said on Saturday that the vaccine was cleared Friday night because science and data determined he was ready, not because of “any other external pressure” and that he would “absolutely” take the vaccine.
Hahn’s comments come after President Donald Trump expressed resistance on Friday morning to handing over the coronavirus vaccine distribution to the incoming Biden administration, tweeting “they want to come in and take control of one of the “Greatest and fastest medical miracles in modern history”. He called the FDA a “big, old, slow, turtle” moments after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that clearance was granted. The emergency to use Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was imminent and vaccinations could begin as early as Monday. . Trump even called Hahn personally in his tweet, saying, “Stop playing games and start saving lives !!! ”
The tweet follows months during which Trump lobbied the FDA to speed up its vaccine approval process.
For months, Trump publicly pressured the FDA to act faster by authorizing COVID-19 treatments – even if they had not been proven to work. During the campaign, Trump openly expressed his wish for a vaccine to be widely available by election day, which did not happen.
Shortly after the election, he again bragged about the vaccination effort, which he dubbed “Operation Warp Speed”, calling it “unmatched and unmatched anywhere in the world, and leaders of others. countries called me to congratulate us on what we have been. able to do. ”
Despite his repeated efforts to take credit for the record pace at which scientists have developed a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, Trump was unusually silent after the UK became the first country to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine.
That day, Meadows called Hahn for a second meeting in the West Wing in as many days, a senior administration official told ABC News.
Reports also revealed this month that the United States over the summer refused to purchase additional doses of Pfizer vaccine. The administration had pledged to buy 100 million doses – enough to cover 50 million people, since the vaccine consists of a two-dose regimen – but, according to a senior administration official, had let the chance pass. to lock up hundreds of millions more.
The White House has denied the information. But the administration’s July announcement of its contract with Pfizer indicated that Pfizer was leaving open the possibility for the United States “to acquire 500 million additional doses.”
Katherine Faulders, Anne Flaherty, Ben Gittleson, John Parkinson, Libby Cathey and John Santucci contributed to this report.