Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn downplayed a meeting Tuesday with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, saying he was merely updating the administration on the COVID-19 vaccine authorization process.
Axios reported Monday that Meadows summoned Hahn to the West Wing for a morning meeting to explain why emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine has not been approved faster.
Following the meeting Tuesday, Hahn spoke with ABC News medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton on Instagram Live, telling her that he was updating the White House regarding the EUA process. He added the content of the meeting was no different than the subjects discussed in their interview.
His comments follow Axios’s Monday report from two senior administration officials saying some in the White House would raise concerns about Hahn taking a vacation in mid-November amid a critical time to approve Pfizer’s novel vaccine candidate for emergency use.
“There are some who are complaining the FDA is not working around the clock to get things approved and because of that, Meadows has asked Dr. Hahn for a briefing,” one administration official told Axios.
In coordination with German drugmaker BioNtech, Pfizer applied for EUA from the FDA on Nov. 20.
The FDA has scheduled a meeting for Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer and BioNtech’s request for authorization.
Hahn said Tuesday the authorization of the potentially eligible vaccines would not be automatic following the upcoming meeting, adding, “It’s hard to predict, and I want to set the appropriate expectations.”
He said the FDA conditionally “should” be relatively quick with the authorization process following the meeting, but underscored that “one thing we can’t do is promise something that isn’t deliverable because of an issue that comes up regarding safety or effectiveness.”
The commissioner’s statement could add greater contention between the FDA and the Trump administration, as the president has criticized the FDA in recent months for its delays in fast-tracking a vaccine.