President Trump again criticized the Food and Drug Administration in a tweet on Friday morning, attacking the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, by name for not approving a Covid-19 vaccine sooner.
Continuing his practice of publicly berating subordinates he is unhappy with, Mr. Trump told Dr. Hahn “to stop playing games and start saving lives !!!” He called the FDA “A big, old, slow turtle,” full of funds but mired in bureaucracy.
The FDA has walked a thin line, trying to speed up vaccine approval without undermining public confidence in the process. Dr Hahn has repeatedly stated that regulators will not approve a vaccine that has not been proven safe and effective.
The president’s tirade came the morning after an external expert advisory group overwhelmingly voted to recommend that FDA regulators approve a vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, for use in ’emergency.
Regulators are expected to issue the clearance as early as Friday, and in a statement released Friday they said they had warned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and those involved in Operation Warp Speed ”so that they can execute their timely vaccine distribution plans. “
Mr Trump has said little about the pandemic in recent weeks, as cases and deaths mount across the country. As of Thursday, 2,923 people in the United States have died from the virus, according to a Times database. More than 3,000 deaths were reported Wednesday.
The president has repeatedly accused the FDA and the vaccine makers themselves of deliberately slowing down the approval process in order to harm it politically. Dr Hahn’s allies have been on the sidelines for weeks, expecting him to be fired any day.
The president wrote that with “my efforts” the administration had reduced vaccine development for years. “Get the vaccines out of the dam NOW, Dr Hahn,” he wrote, misspelling the curse.
A minute after the President’s tweet was published, Alex M. Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, posted a “BREAKING” message on his official Twitter account, claiming that the FDA had informed Pfizer that it was making progress. quickly ”towards the authorization of his vaccine. It echoed a statement by Dr Hahn and Dr Peter Marks, the agency’s main vaccine regulator that officials say was released ahead of the president’s tweet.
Eileen Sullivan contribution to reports.