FILE PHOTO: U.S. Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar speaks to reporters about Trump administration efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak outside the White House in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

White House considering replacing Health Secretary Alex Azar: Reports

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 Sunday (Apr 26).

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, which cited 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; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma and Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan.

Asked for a response, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said: "Secretary Azar is busy responding to a global, public health crisis and doesn't have time for palace intrigue."

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