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Alex Azar denies clashing with FDA head, says vaccine could be available to "all Americans" by April

HHS secretary on COVID-19 vaccine timeline
HHS Secretary Alex Azar on COVID-19 vaccine timeline and "concerning" pandemic trend 05:23

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is denying a new report claiming he is "openly plotting the ouster" of FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn over his alleged insistence on strict COVID-19 vaccine safety guidelines. 

"Commissioner Hahn and I speak almost every day. We have a very close, productive relationship," Azar said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

According to a report published Thursday in Politico, Azar had expressed his frustration with Hahn to several allies within his department, and even went so far as to discuss the "prospect of seeking White House permission to remove him." 

Hahn's reported insistence on stricter-than-normal safety standards for a coronavirus vaccine would likely make President Trump's repeated promise to deliver a vaccine before the November 3 election impossible. 

Azar called the allegations "absolutely untrue," and has previously denied efforts to meet an Election Day deadline. 

He said he was "working together" with Commissioner Hahn, and "100% supported" the FDA maintaining control.

"The FDA will make the decision whether to approve therapeutics or vaccines according to their science, data, regulatory and legal standards," Azar said. "Those calls will be made ultimately by top career officials at the FDA."

Asked if he was confident in Hahn leading that effort, Azar responded: "Absolutely." 

Azar declined to speculate on when the U.S. would return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life, but expressed optimism that a vaccine may be available to some by the end of the year.

"We can't predict exactly when we'll get data," he began. "We believe by the end of this year we would have enough FDA-authorized vaccine to vaccinate our most vulnerable people, by the end of January enough vaccine for all of our seniors as well as our health care workers and first responders, and by the end of March to early April — enough for all Americans."

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