AMERICA'S top medic today blasted that Britain "joined the vaccine marathon at the last mile" and accused regulators of rushing approval for the new Covid jab.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claimed American regulators "would do a more thorough job" of assessing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
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His bitter attack came after the UK yesterday took the first steps to victory over Covid-19 as we beat the world to get a vaccine.
The scientific milestone means millions of Brits are expected to receive the Pfizer jab in time for Christmas after it was approved by regulators.
But Dr Fauci told CBS News that Britain "kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile.
"They really rushed through that approval."
He added: "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.'"
Dr Fauci instead praised his own country's standards, boasting: "The FDA, the United States of America Food and Drug Administration, is the gold standard of regulation.
"They are doing it in a careful way, appropriately."
He added that approving a vaccine in a way that appeared to be cutting corners for the sake of a week, or a week and a half, would damage the credibility of the American regulatory process.
Hitting back at the comments, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement: "We have rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review.
No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.
"Covid-19 vaccines, including this one, are being developed in a co-ordinated in a way that allows 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."
It added that a rolling review of the vaccine data started at the beginning of October, and since then the data, and had made good progress on the review before the last submission of data was received.
"Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in line with international standards, with oversight provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
"No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met," the statement concluded.
'MUCH BETTER COUNTRY'
Dr Siddhartha Sankar Datta, the World Health Organisation's regional adviser for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunisation in Europe, said: "The national regulatory authority of a country will review the different elements of a system before they make the vaccine licensed for use – (based on) the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.
"That is what the UK's national regulatory authority has done yesterday with their evaluation. We have learned about it and we acknowledge it."
It comes as ministers and scientists today rallied around the regulator, with Gavin Williamson insisting Britain beat the US and Europe fair and square because it was simply "a much better country".
In an extraordinary outburst, the Education Secretary claimed the reason the UK was the first country in the world to approve a jab was because we have "much better" scientists than anywhere else.
In response, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said "we are definitely not in the game of comparing regulators across countries".
He added: "This is not a football competition, we are talking about the life and health of people."
Issues surrounding storage temperature and how many times it can be transported have prompted the Prime Minister to warn of "immense logistical challenges" in the Pfizer rollout, with experts saying that people in care homes might face a delay in receiving the jab.
However, the Scottish Government has said care homes in the country will get the jab from December 14, raising questions for care home residents in other parts of the UK.
The MHRA said on Wednesday that batches could be made smaller – the same day the chief executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens told a Downing Street press conference that approval was needed for the vaccine to be safely divided.
A document outlining conditions of authorisation said "further packing down" of batches to aid deployment could occur at 2C to 8C within two hours of leaving cold storage.
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