Coronavirus Pandemic

Anthony Fauci: US expert apologises for criticising UK's Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine approval

Agencies/London, United Kingdom
Filed on December 4, 2020 | Last updated on December 4, 2020 at 02.00 am

(AFP file photo)

"I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community in the UK," Fauci said.

Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, apologised on Thursday after casting doubt over the rigour of the British regulators who approved the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 and said he had faith in their work.

"There really has been a misunderstanding, and for that I'm sorry, and I apologise for that," Fauci said in an interview with BBC television, after his earlier comments on CBS were broadcast in Britain and received prominent coverage.

"I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community in the UK," Fauci said.

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"I did not mean to apply any sloppiness (to the UK regulatory process) even though it came out that way," he said. "So if it did, I just want to set the record straight. I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulatory standpoint."

Fauci’s earlier comments came a day after Britain became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, prompting some scepticism among the country's European neighbours and suggestions that the process was politicised.

Widely-respected Fauci, who leads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Thursday: "In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile.

"I think that would be a good metaphor for it... because they really rushed through that approval."

He contrasted Britain's regulator with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which he called "the gold standard of regulation."

"They're doing it in a very careful way, appropriately, because if we did anything that was cutting corners and rushing, we have enough problem(s) with people being sceptical about taking a vaccine anyway," he said.

"If we had jumped over the hurdle here quickly and inappropriately to gain an extra week or a week and a half, I think that the credibility of our regulatory process would have been damaged."

Fauci added "I love the Brits" and said he had respect for the country's scientists.

"But they just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinising it really, really carefully, they said, 'OK, let's approve it. That's it,' and they went with it.

"In fact, they were even rather severely criticised by their European Union counterparts who were saying, you know, 'That was kind of a hot dog play.'"

British ministers claimed Brexit had allowed them to adopt the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ahead of their neighbours, who are still awaiting a green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Britain is still under EU drug marketing rules until December 31, the end of a post-Brexit transition period, but has approved the vaccine under an emergency provision in European law.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, addressing a video-conference of his EU colleagues, said Wednesday: "The idea is not to be first, but to have a safe and efficient vaccine."

"It is a matter of expertise, obviously, authorisation. But as we've seen from comments from the UK, it's also a political issue for the European Union," he added.

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