President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE on Friday publicly pressured the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move more quickly in approving a coronavirus vaccine, lamenting that the organization was acting like a “big, old, slow turtle.”
“While my pushing the money drenched but heavily bureaucratic @US_FDA saved five years in the approval of NUMEROUS great new vaccines, it is still a big, old, slow turtle. Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!” Trump tweeted early Friday, tagging FDA Commissioner Stephen HahnStephen HahnTrump discussed sending infected Americans to Guantanamo Bay: book Stephen Hahn joining venture capital firm behind Moderna Redfield says Azar pressured him to revise COVID-19 data reports MORE in the message.
The tweet came hours after a federal panel of outside experts voted to recommend the FDA grant emergency use authorization to the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, saying that the safety and efficacy of the vaccine outweighs the risks. The FDA is widely expected to follow the recommendation, and a decision could be made within days.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said later Friday morning on "Good Morning America" that the FDA would grant the authorization in a "couple of days" and that the first Americans could be vaccinated by the beginning of next week.
"Just a bit ago, the FDA informed Pfizer that they do intend to proceed towards an authorization for their vaccine," Azar said.
Still, the overall process has not been fast enough for Trump, who initially predicted that a vaccine could be ready before Election Day and has publicly pressured the FDA to move more quickly.
Back in August, Trump suggested without evidence that members of a “deep state” within the FDA were slowing the vaccine approval process for political reasons.
Three countries — the United Kingdom, Bahrain and Canada — have approved the Pfizer vaccine for use on their citizens. The U.K. begin distributing the vaccine to high-risk individuals on Tuesday, a milestone in the global fight against COVID-19.
Coronavirus cases are currently surging in the U.S., where daily deaths due to COVID-19 topped 3,000 earlier this week. Trump held a vaccine summit earlier this week to tout his administration’s program to speed the delivery of a vaccine once it is approved, Operation Warp Speed.
The president continued to play down the rising number of cases, falsely attributing them to an increase in testing, and defended his administration’s decision to hold holiday parties during the pandemic.
--Updated at 9:05 a.m.