Leading U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Thursday apologized for expressing doubts about the rigor of the UK regulators that approved Pfizer’s vaccine against COVID-19 and said he had confidence in the quality her work.
The UK announced approval of the vaccine on Wednesday. The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) said it had rigorously checked vaccine data and made no compromises.
It gave Britain the leap in the race for mass vaccination against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people around the world and ravaged the global economy. US and European Union regulators are searching the same Pfizer vaccine trial data but are still pending approval.
In a CBS interview on Thursday, Fauci suggested that UK regulators had not scrutinized the data carefully enough and waved the vaccine through – comments that were prominently featured on major UK television news channels.
He later gave an interview to the BBC in which he said his previous comments were wrong.
“There really was a misunderstanding and I am sorry and I apologize for it,” he said. “I have great faith in both the scientific and regulatory communities in the UK,” said Fauci.
“I didn’t mean to use sloppiness (on the UK regulatory process) when it came out that way,” he added.
Fauci said the point he was trying is that in the US context, given the widespread skepticism about vaccines, it would not have been appropriate to go through the process in the same way and at the same speed as in the UK.
“If we had approved it yesterday or tomorrow, for example, there would have likely been a setback for an already questioned society,” he said.
“You know, at the end of the day it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be effective, the people in the UK are going to get it and they’re going to do it really well, and the people in the US are going to get it and we’re going to do it pretty well “said Fauci.
In response to its previous criticism, the MHRA issued a statement saying it had “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest possible time without compromising the thoroughness of our review”.
The regulator also said its emergency clearance “ran some phases of this process in parallel to reduce the time required, but that does not mean that steps and expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed”.
Fauci is the most famous member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and has often argued with President Donald Trump over how to protect Americans from the virus that has caused approximately 273,000 US deaths.
President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday that he asked Fauci to be the chief medical officer of his COVID-19 team when he took office on Jan. 20.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)