Fauci Backtracks After Saying U.K. 'Rushed Through' COVID Vaccine

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has apologized after suggesting the United Kingdom approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine too quickly.

"You know, in all fairness to so many of my U.K. friends, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined this in the last mile," Fauci said during a Thursday interview on the CBS News podcast The Takeout With Major Garrett. "I think that would be a good metaphor for it." He also said that "they really rushed through that approval."

Fauci later backtracked on the comments, and said there was "no judgment on the way the U.K. did it".

"I have a great deal of confidence in what the U.K. does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint," he told the BBC. "Our process is one that takes more time than it takes in the U.K. And that's just the reality. I did not mean to imply any sloppiness even though it came out that way."

Fauci's remarks came as the U.S. surpassed 14 million COVID-19 infections and recorded 276,325 deaths. America's Food and Drug Administration has a different process of approving medicines and Fauci explained it is taking longer to approve the Pfizer jab as "the FDA is the gold standard of regulation."

He said: "They're doing it in a very careful way, appropriately. 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 regulator process would have been damaged."

On Thursday he clarified, saying the U.S. does "things a little differently" than the UK. "That's all," he said. "Not better, not worse, just differently."

The FDA plans to meet on December 10 to discuss approval for the Pfizer vaccine and will meet again on December 17 to discuss a second vaccine from Moderna. Dr. June Raine, the head of the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said that "no corners had been cut" in vetting the vaccine and said it was "very disappointing and frankly irresponsible" to cast doubt on the world-beating regulator.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at White House
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on November 19 Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The U.K.'s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC he was "very confident" in the regulator and that there is more than "100 years of medical experience" between the MHRA and the committee advising which groups of people are vaccinated first.

The MHRA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine made Britain the first country in the world to give the green light to a COVID-19 vaccine. It came three weeks after Pfizer published data from the final stage of the vaccine's clinical trials, where results showed 95 percent efficacy against the coronavirus.

In announcing the approval, the MHRA said it concluded that the vaccine had "met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness" after analyzing data provided by Pfizer. The agency reiterated those points in an emailed statement to Newsweek, saying it "rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of the review."

Fauci's comments came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA), overseeing the vaccine's approval in the European Union, said its longer approval process requires more stringent procedures than the U.K., according to a statement reported by Reuters. The EMA will meet on December 29 to determine if there is adequate safety data on the vaccine for it to be approved in Europe. After the agency approves the vaccine, it will probably also need a sign-off from the EU Commission.