White House considering replacing health secretary Alex Azar

Frustration with Alex Azar (left) was reportedly growing due to missteps in handling the pandemic. (Twitter pic/SecAzar)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s administration is considering replacing its secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, because of early missteps in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Wall Street Journal and Politico reported on Saturday.

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, denied it and said the HHS under Azar continues to lead on a number of the president’s priorities.

“Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to Covid-19,” Deere said.

The Journal, citing six people familiar with the discussions, said frustration with Azar was growing but the administration was reluctant to make big changes while the country was seeking to stop the virus, which has killed more than 53,000 people in the United States.

Politico said the shortlist of names to replace Azar included Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator; Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan.

Asked for a response, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said: “Secretary Azar is busy responding to a global, public health crisis and doesn’t have time for palace intrigue.”