Top US immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci has apologised over his criticism of what he called the UK’s hasty approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 jab, while the British regulator said everything was up to standard.
“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the UK,” Fauci, one of America’s top health officials, told the BBC, calling his earlier comments a “misunderstanding.”
On Thursday, Fauci had expressed some skepticism over the approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine by the UK regulator, MHRA, by saying that the British supposedly did not carry out such procedures as “carefully” as America’s Food and Drug Administration, which he described as “the gold standard of regulatory function.”
The statement sparked some controversy after it was covered by the Western media and apparently put the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) on the defensive.
“The Brits are good, they know what they’re doing, they’re really pros,” he told NBC’s Today show, adding that his words were “taken out of context.”
Fauci directed blame at British journalists, saying he had made the comments instinctively after one reporter boasted that the UK had “beat” the Americans on approving the vaccine.
“It was just one of those things where I sat down in front of the TV with a British TV station and the first thing they said was, ‘Ah, we beat you guys. We beat the Americans to the punch’,” he told NBC. “And I kind of reacted back at him when I think I probably should not have done.”
The controversy also apparently unnerved the British regulator, which issued a series of explanatory statements over the past 24 hours, even dedicating a blog post to explaining the roles of the MHRA and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, arguing that the two organizations “have been mentioned in the news a lot this week.”
The @MHRAgovuk and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (#JCVI) have been mentioned in the news a lot this week.A new @PHE_UK blog explains the vital roles that these organisations play in approving and rolling out a #COVID19 vaccine.Read 🔽https://t.co/K6dbGc1D1b
An MHRA spokesperson also told British media that the vaccine data was “rigorously assessed” and the assessment speed was achieved “without compromising the thoroughness” of the review.
“This process is designed to make sure that any vaccine approved meets the expected high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met,” the spokesperson said, as cited by Sky News.
The UK became the first nation to approve the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday. The development immediately prompted lavish and “jingoistic” praise from some top officials, including Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Business Secretary Alok Sharma. The broader public, however, took the news with a great deal of skepticism, with both officials being ridiculed on social media.
The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, meanwhile, vowed to get the jab live on TV to prove it is safe.
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