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Hahn at a Senate hearing Sept. 23. Photo: Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows hinted to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn on a phone call Friday that his job security might be in jeopardy as he pushed the FDA chief to approve Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day, according to two sources familiar with the call.

Why it matters: It's one more example of the White House putting political pressure on the FDA to expedite its green light on a coronavirus vaccine.

On Twitter Friday, President Trump pressured the agency publicly as well. He called it "a big, old, slow turtle," and demanded: "Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"

  • In a statement, Hahn called the account “an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff. The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning.”
  • A White House official replied, "We don't comment on private conversations, but the Chief regularly requests updates on progress toward a vaccine."
  • The exchange was first reported by the Washington Post.

Where it stands: Pfizer's vaccine authorization was already on a fast track and the FDA's announcement was expected to come soon, perhaps over the weekend, following an advisory committee's recommendation on Thursday.

  • Moving that timeline up by a day or two is unlikely to make a difference in how quickly people can actually receive the vaccine.

What's next: The administration has said that roughly 3 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine can be shipped immediately, once the FDA issues its authorization.

  • Those doses will primarily go to health care workers. And because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at sub-Arctic temperatures, it likely will be concentrated among research institutions that are equipped for ultra-cold storage.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Trump's tweet and a response from Hahn.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.