In Brief

Why the UK was faster than US is race to approve Pfizer vaccine

Anthony Fauci apologises after suggesting Britain’s regulator ‘rushed’ process of assessing Covid jab

America’s top infectious diseases expert has apologised after apparently criticising the speed with which the UK approved the Pfizer vaccine to become the world’s first country to green-light the Covid immunity jab. 

Dr Anthony Fauci, who heads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News yesterday that Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had “really rushed through that approval”.

“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community in the UK,” Fauci continued. “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulatory standpoint.”

The US medical chief held out the olive branch after the MHRA issued a statement insisting that it “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review”.

The medicines regulator - which formally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech-developed jab on Wednesday - said its experts had reviewed preliminary data on the vaccine trials dating back to June and had been running a “rolling review” since October, helping to speed up the process.

The race to roll out a vaccine has generated “an extraordinary bout of global sniping”, with critics in both the US and European “taking aim at the MHRA for the speed with which it granted the vaccine an emergency authorisation”, The Times reports.

Experts say that the differences in approval timescales is down to “the US, EU and UK regulators [having] different styles”, the paper continues.

“While the Americans rerun the safety and efficacy analyses performed by drugmakers, the EU and UK check the analyses, which can be quicker.” 

Fauci claims another reason for the US lagging behind is the strength of the opposition from anti-vaccination activists in the country. He told CBS: “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.”

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