Dr Fauci yesterday appeared to suggest Britain had rushed approval of the jab, implying the move amounted to “cutting corners”. However, today he attempted to row back his criticism, telling the BBC: “There really has been a misunderstanding, and for that I’m sorry, and I apologise for that.
“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community in the UK.
“I did not mean to imply any sloppiness to the UK regulatory process even though it came out that way.
“So if it did, I just want to set the record straight.
“I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulatory standpoint.”
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Wednesday it had conducted a thorough assessment of the vaccine before granting its emergency use.
Commenting, Dr Fauci said: “You know I love the Brits, they’re great, they’re good scientists.
His reference to scepticism was an acknowledgement of the significant proportion of Americans who reject medical science, as well as from those wary of the safety of vaccines developed at record speed.
He said: “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.”
In response to Dr Fauci’s initial criticism, the MHRA issued a statement saying that it had “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible without compromising the thoroughness of our review”.
The regulator also said its emergency approval had allowed “some stages of this process to happen in parallel to condense the time needed, but it does not mean steps and the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed”.
Dr Fauci is the most high-profile member of the White House coronavirus task force and has often clashed with President Donald Trump on how to protect Americans from the virus.
President-elect Joe Biden today confirmed he had asked Dr Fauci to join his team after Mr Biden takes office on January 20.
In the interview with CNN, Biden also said he will get the Covid vaccine when Fauci says it is safe and will take it publicly.