‘Untrue Representation’: FDA Chief Denies WH Pressured Him Into Approving Vaccine

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn looks on as President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. The move by the FDA comes after President Trump accused the FDA of slow-walking the therapy to harm his reelection chances.(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn looks on as President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus tre... WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn looks on as President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. The move by the FDA comes after President Trump accused the FDA of slow-walking the therapy to harm his reelection chances.(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 13, 2020 3:50 p.m.
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FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn on Sunday reiterated his denial that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows reportedly pressured him into granting an emergency use authorization for Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of Friday, or else he would have to resign.

The Washington Post, which was first to report on Meadows’ ultimatum to Hahn in a phone call, also reported that President Trump has fumed about the FDA chief since the vaccine began being distributed in the UK last week.

Hours after Meadows and Hahn had a call Friday morning, the FDA announced the authorization of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine late Friday night.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Hahn said that the Post’s report on his call with Meadows was an “untrue representation.”

‘The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s (emergency use authorization) request,” Hahn said on Friday. “FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning.”

Hahn issued a similar denial on Saturday, during a joint news conference with Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s vaccine and biologicals branch.

“The representations in the press that I was threatened to be fired if we didn’t get it done by a certain date is inaccurate,” Hahn said on Saturday.

On Sunday, Hahn hammered into his denial further by saying that reports of Meadows threatening to fire the FDA chief in his attempt to strong arm the FDA into authorizing the Pfizer vaccine is “an inaccurate representation of the conversation.”

Asked if he can give insight into his conversation with Meadows, Hahn declined.

“What I can say is, we have heard from a number of sources, including the White House, that there was a desire for us to move as quickly as possible,” Hahn said.

Hahn asserted that the FDA has an “absolute obligation” to the public to ensure a thorough scientific review of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We needed to ensure that our gold standard of assessing the safety and the efficacy of vaccine was done and was done properly,” Hahn said. “We had to get this right. And I believe we did.”

COVID-19 vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui was pressed on reports of the call between Meadows and Hahn during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Slaoui first replied that “those are rumors” and that he “can’t know if they
are right, true or not.”

However, Slaoui said that if reports of what happened during the phone call between Meadows and Hahn are true, then “it was useless and unfortunate.”

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