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Fauci says U.K. "rushed" approval of coronavirus vaccine

CBS News logo CBS News 12/3/2020 Grace Segers
Anthony S. Fauci in a suit and tie: cbsn-fusion-uk-regulators-approve-pfizer-vaccine-for-distribution-ahead-of-european-union-thumbnail-599847-640x360.jpg © CBS News cbsn-fusion-uk-regulators-approve-pfizer-vaccine-for-distribution-ahead-of-european-union-thumbnail-599847-640x360.jpg

Washington — Dr. Anthony Fauci criticized the United Kingdom for rushing through the authorization process for a coronavirus vaccine, telling CBS News that British regulators failed to adequately scrutinize data from drug manufacturers before approving a vaccine. 

"They kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile," Fauci told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in an interview for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast. "They really rushed through that approval."

The U.K. became the first country in the West to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for public use, granting emergency authorization for a vaccine jointly developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was the "gold standard of regulation."

"They're doing it in a very careful way, appropriately," Fauci said about the FDA process for approving a vaccine. "Because if we did anything that was cutting corners and rushing — we have enough problems with people being skeptical about taking a vaccine anyway — 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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Fauci questioned why British scientists took data on the efficacy of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech at face value instead of taking the time to independently scrutinize its effectiveness, and noted that the U.K. had also been criticized by officials in the European Union.

"I love the Brits, they're great, they're good scientists, but they just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said: 'OK, let's approve it, that's it.' And they went with it," Fauci said. "In fact, they were even rather severely criticized by their European Union counterparts who were saying, you know, 'That was kind of a hot dog play.' I didn't say that, they did."

Fauci's comments come after FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told CBS News' Dr. Jon LaPook on Wednesday that the FDA is one of the only agencies globally to look at the underlying data from a vaccine trial.

"What I can tell you is we're one of the few regulatory agencies in the world, if not the only one, that actually looks at the raw data from clinical trial," Hahn said. "So we're not going to take a summary from a company and take their conclusions and base our decision upon that. What we're going to do is actually crunch the numbers ourselves, look at safety, look at efficacy. And we're going to do that line by line with different patient groups."

Hahn also said that the FDA has between 100 and 150 people working on every emergency use authorization application for a vaccine.

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