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Hahn pushes back on Trump comments, says vaccine could not have been approved sooner

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen HahnStephen HahnThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Biden's first official trip as president The Hill's Morning Report - With trial over, Biden renews push for COVID-19 bill How scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics MORE shot down suggestions that the coronavirus vaccine could have been approved earlier following criticism from President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Hahn was asked by host Martha Raddatz if members of the Trump administration, chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE in particular, had rushed him to approve the COVID-19 vaccine, which was granted emergency use authorization on Friday.

“We do not feel that this could have been out a week earlier,” Hahn said. “We went through our process. We promised, Martha, the American people that we would do a thorough review of the application, and that’s what we did.” 

On Friday, Trump tweeted, "Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"

"We followed our process," Hahn continued on ABC. "Thursday evening after the VRBPAC [Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee] — after the vaccine advisory committee meeting — our folks made the decision to go forward, but we had to continue our discussions with the sponsor. And so we put out a statement early Friday indicating that we were moving forward with this authorization with the sponsor."

"That is the urgency of the situation that we felt and we did this on behalf of the American people," Hahn added.

Hahn also discussed skepticism surrounding the vaccine. Raddatz pointed to a recent survey that found around one-third to one-fourth of Americans do not want to be immunized.

Hahn acknowledged the reluctance as a "significant problem" and stressed that mitigation efforts remained important, despite the approval of the vaccine.

"But the way we see light at the end of the tunnel, the way we get through this, is to achieve herd immunity. And that means we need to vaccinate a significant number of people in this country, including those who are hesitant," Hahn said.

"And our process — this is our contribution to the transparency. We want the data to be known. We wanted that advisory committee to be public because we wanted everyone in America — around the world, frankly — to see what information was available and why we made the judgment we made about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine," Hahn said.