Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has apologised for making remarks that criticized the United Kingdom’s covid-19 vaccine approval process.
The UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine for the coronavirus, and is set to distribute the vaccine this weekend.
It has defended the rapid approval and said the vaccine is safe and effective.
Dr Fauci on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, told Fox News that the UK did not review the vaccine “as carefully” as US health regulators. He later told CBS News that the UK had “rushed” the approval.
Dr June Raine, the head of the UK medicines regulator, on Wednesday replied his comment saying that “no corners had been cut” in vetting the vaccine. She added that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reviewed preliminary data on the vaccine trials dating back to June.
“No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met,” the regulator said.
On Thursday, December 3, Fauci walked back his comments, and said there was “no judgement on the way the UK did it”.
“I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint,” Dr Fauci told the BBC on Thursday.
“Our process is one that takes more time than it takes in the UK. And that’s just the reality,” Dr Fauci told the BBC. “I did not mean to imply any sloppiness even though it came out that way.”
Also on Thursday, Dr Fauci told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, he will meet with members of President-elect Joe Biden’s team to discuss the incoming administration’s response to the pandemic. Dr Fauci had already met with Mr Biden’s incoming chief-of-staff, he said.
Fauci has led the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) for more than 30 years – covering five presidential transitions
Dr Fauci’s remarks come as the US surpasses 14 million total Covid-19 infections, with a recorded 274,648 deaths.
On Thursday, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC he was “very confident” in the MHRA.
He said there was more than “100 years of medical experience” between the UK regulator and the committee advising which groups of people are vaccinated first.