White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reportedly ordered Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), to immediately issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine or resign his post on Friday.
Meadows, who has never been known for his people skills, made the threat the same day that Donald Trump mocked the FDA, an agency of which he has been in charge the past four years, as a “big, old, slow turtle” for its management of vaccines. “Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA,” Trump tweeted. “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”
The FDA had planned to issue an EUA for the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday, clearing the way for it to begin to be administered with a day. The pressure from the White House is the latest attempt by Trump to take credit for the development and dissemination of a vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 300,000 Americans to date under his watch.
The Pfizer vaccine, which requires people to receive two shots approximately three weeks apart, has been shown to be about 95 percent effective in trials. It already has been cleared and is being administered in the United Kingdom, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In the U.S. the FDA has been conducting an extensive review of clinical trial data from the drug manufacturer, which it hopes will boost public confidence in the vaccine.
The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told the New York Times on Friday that as soon as the vaccine is available to him he will “get vaccinated publicly, in the public space, so that people can see me getting vaccinated” as a way of encouraging people to take the shots.