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FDA chief says it’s his ‘greatest hope’ that vaccinations start in US on Monday

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn speaks during a news conference on Saturday, December 12, 2020. (Provided Photo/CNN)

  (CNN) — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Sunday that it’s his “greatest hope” that the first coronavirus vaccinations in the US are doled out on Monday.

“Well, my hope, again, is that this happens very expeditiously — hopefully tomorrow,” Hahn told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “It would be my greatest hope and desire that that occur tomorrow.”

The comments from Hahn come the same day that freight trucks carrying about 184,275 vials of coronavirus vaccine departed a Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan, marking a monumental moment in the US’ response to the deadly pandemic.

Though the combined 189 boxes of vaccine vials are expected to arrive in all 50 states on Monday, the commissioner noted that before the vaccine can be given to people, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield must first accept a recommendation from the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Another 3,900 vials are expected to ship later Sunday to US territories, while an additional 400 boxes packed with approximately 390,000 vials will ship Monday to arrive on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the FDA is set to meet with its advisory committee again this Thursday to review a vaccine application submitted by Moderna, something Hahn said he hopes is done “expeditiously.”

“This week we will publish our assessment of the data in advance of that meeting and we’ll have another public discussion just like we did last Thursday,” he said, referring to a meeting held last week for the Pfizer vaccine. “My sincerest hope is that we move forward and we’ll do so expeditiously, but (I) don’t want to prejudge that decision.”

President Donald Trump has been venting about the FDA chief since the vaccine was rolled out in the UK last week. An administration official and a source familiar with the situation told CNN that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Hahn he needed to grant an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine by the end of Friday, and if not, he would have to resign.

Pressed by Tapper on Meadow’s ultimatum, Hahn denied that it was made and touted his commitment to science.

“There was a desire for us to move as quickly as possible,” he said. “We have. Our absolute obligation to the American people was to make sure we did a thorough scientific review. We needed to assure our gold star in assessing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine was done and was done properly.”

“We had to get this right and I believe we did,” Hahn said.