White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urged US Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn to authorize Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine by Friday and quipped that he should prepare to resign if not, a senior administration official said on Friday.
Meadows leaned on Hahn during a phone conversation on Friday. The official told Reuters that Meadows' comment about resigning "wasn't a red line," but was more of a quip with the intention of urging "the FDA to act quickly and get the job done and stop the delays."
The White House declined to comment, although an administration official said Meadows does request regular updates on the progress toward a vaccine.
US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, which oversees the FDA, told ABC News that regulatory authorization should come within days and the federal government would work with the company to get the vaccine shipped out.
For months, US President Donald Trump had pressured the FDA in tweets and news conferences to move more quickly, accusing staff and Pfizer of dragging their feet.
Shortly after the FDA's statement, the outgoing president criticized the agency for what he said was its slow handling of the vaccines and FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn via tweet.
Trump said his "pushing" the agency had sped up new vaccine approval, but that the FDA was "still a big, old, slow turtle. Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"
The FDA said on Friday it was working rapidly to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine, with the green light coming possibly as soon as Friday evening, according to the New York Times.
The newspaper reported on Friday that the FDA is likely to issue the EUA by Friday evening, citing people familiar with the agency's planning. It had reported on Thursday night that the FDA would announce the news on Saturday.
Swift clearance of the vaccine was widely expected after a panel of expert advisers to the FDA on Thursday endorsed its emergency use to help stem a pandemic that has killed more than 285,000 people in the United States.
The decision will set the stage for the first Americans to be immunized outside of clinical trials as soon as Monday or Tuesday, with healthcare workers expected to be among the first in line.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.