WASHINGTON (AP) — Hours before the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first COVD-19 vaccine late Friday, a high-ranking White House official told the agency’s chief he could face firing if the vaccine was not cleared by day’s end, two administration officials said.
The FDA granted emergency use for the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech. The decision kicks off a massive vaccination effort to help defeat the pandemic. President Donald Trump said late Friday that Pfizer had “passed the gold standard of safety” and hailed the vaccine as “one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history.”
But the move followed tense discussions between White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, according to a senior administration official who was familiar with the call but was not authorized to discuss private conversations.
The chief of staff told Hahn his job was in jeopardy if the emergency use authorization was not issued before Saturday, said a second administration official familiar with the conversation.
Earlier in the day Hahn had issued a statement indicating the agency was working rapidly to clear the vaccine.