HHS Secretary Alex Azar and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows grilled Commissioner Stephen Hahn and other top FDA officials in meetings this week on their decisions to require more rigorous review of initial data from the first vaccine candidates. In particular, they questioned why the agency won’t authorize a vaccine until after Dec. 10 at the earliest — about a month after Pfizer first reported that its shot was more than 90 percent effective, and roughly three weeks after Moderna announced similarly impressive findings. Multiple Trump appointees and even some career civil servants have argued that every day of delay could make a difference for the most vulnerable populations in a life-threatening pandemic…

“It’s crazy to imagine the European Union or U.K. may approve a vaccine developed in the United States before us though, right?” said a senior official involved in the process…

“Azar has now kind of bypassed the commissioner,” a senior HHS official said. “He’s trying to get his house in order — timelines, ‘what do you need,’ ‘what can we do to help.'”

“He’s asking questions that a CEO should ask,” the senior official added. “In turn, these are questions that Commissioner Hahn — as CEO of the FDA — should be asking, but he’s not.”