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Fauci apologizes for suggesting Britain rushed COVID-19 vaccine approval

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House news conference
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, speaks at a White House news conference Nov. 19.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

America’s top infectious-disease expert has apologized for suggesting that British authorities rushed their approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this week, saying he has “great faith” in the country’s regulators.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had sparked controversy with an earlier interview in which he said British medical regulators hadn’t acted “as carefully” as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Fauci said late Thursday that he meant to say U.S. authorities do things differently — not better — than their British counterparts but that his comments weren’t phrased properly.

“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community [in] the U.K., and anyone who knows me and my relationship with that, over literally decades, you know that’s the case,” Fauci told the BBC.

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Britain on Wednesday became the first Western nation to authorize widespread use of a COVID-19 vaccine when regulators gave emergency approval to the product made by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech. Critics have suggested that Britain’s regulators emphasized speed over thoroughness when they reviewed data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

Fauci rejected that idea.

Britain becomes the first country to approve a fully tested COVID-19 vaccine, but its show of national pride raises EU hackles.

The FDA has to move more slowly because of the high degree of skepticism about vaccines in the U.S., Fauci said. Because of this, U.S. regulators are reviewing all of the raw data from Pfizer and BioNTech “in a way that could not possibly have been done any more quickly,” he said.

It will take the FDA at least another week to complete its review, but the U.S. and Britain will ultimately end up in the same place, Fauci said.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be effective,” he said. “The people in the U.K. are going to receive it, and they’re going to do really well, and the people in the United States are going to receive it, and we’re going to do pretty well.”


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