Dr. Fauci Just Apologized for Saying This About the COVID Vaccine

The infectious disease expert regrets causing any misunderstanding.

With COVID vaccines on the horizon and coronavirus cases surging in the U.S., tensions are high. The pressure rose when the U.K. became the first country to officially approve a COVID vaccine on Dec. 2, while the U.S. is still at least a week out from this landmark. Americans had a lot of questions about why the U.K. authorized the vaccine first. In response, Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), had a few choice words about the U.K.'s process, for which he's since apologized.

When Fauci was asked why the U.K. is ahead of us in approving the vaccine—and will be able to have shots rolling out as soon as next week—he offered a surprisingly bold response. Within 24 hours, Fauci walked it back. Keep reading for more on what he's calling a "misunderstanding," and to see what else the nation's leading infectious disease expert had to say about immunization, Dr. Fauci Wants You to Know This One Thing About the Vaccine.

Fauci said the Brits "rushed through" vaccine approval.

Scientists wearing full protective suit working in the laboratory

On Dec. 3, Fauci was on The Takeout podcast with CBS News' chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. When Garrett asked Fauci, "Why are the Brits first?" the doctor responded with a laugh. "In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile," Fauci said. "I think that would be a good metaphor for it, Major, because they really rushed through that approval." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Fauci said the U.S. regulatory process is the "gold standard."

Doctors analyzing medical samples in a lab

"The United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is the gold standard of regulation—they're doing it in a very careful way appropriately," said Fauci. The doctor cited Americans' concern about the vaccine as part of the reason the U.S. has to be extremely thoughtful about the regulatory process.

"We have enough problems with people being skeptical about taking a vaccine anyway," he said. "If we had jumped over a 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."

He noted that the U.K. was criticized by their European Union counterparts.

Scientist working in a laboratory using a pipette

"I love the Brits, they're great, they're good scientists," said Fauci, before pointing out some of the possible flaws in their approval process. "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."

The infectious disease expert isn't the only one who did a double-take at how quickly the U.K. got the vaccine approved. "They were even rather severely criticized by their European Union counterparts who were saying, 'You know, that was kind of a hot dog play,'" Fauci added.

Fauci has now apologized for his comments.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to testify before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Friday, July 31, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch/Pool Via Cnp/Media Punch/Alamy Live News

On Dec. 4, the doctor appeared on the BBC to apologize—less than 24 hours after making his original comments. "There really has been a misunderstanding, and for that, I am sorry, and I apologize for that," Fauci said. And for more on the coronavirus vaccine, These Are the COVID Vaccine Side Effects Doctors Are Worried About.

He attested to the U.K. regulatory process.

Doctors look at a test vile in a lab

After apologizing for his comments, Fauci seemed to change his tune, now vouching for the U.K.'s vaccine approval process. "I do have great faith in the scientific community and the regulatory community in the U.K.," he said. "And anyone who knows me and knows my relationship with that over literally decades knows that's the case."

Fauci said he was trying to make a point about the U.S., but he acknowledged he did not make it well. "That's the reason why I welcome the opportunity to get on your show and say that I do have confidence, it came out wrong, and that was not the way I meant it to be," he continued.

Fauci acknowledged the tension in the U.S.

People walking wearing masks

"In the United States, there is such a considerable amount of tension, of pushing back on the credibility of the safety and of the efficacy," the doctor said. He pointed out that if the U.S. had approved a vaccine as quickly as the U.K. did, there "would be pushback [from] an already scrutinizing society that has really, I think in some respects in the United States, too much skepticism about the process."

Fauci added that this is not a judgment about how swiftly the U.K. approved the vaccine, but rather a reflection of how the U.S. does things differently, "not better, not worse, just differently." This is where the doctor believes the miscommunication stemmed from. That's "where I slipped, I made it seem one was better than the other [when] we just do it a little bit differently," he said. And for more on the vaccine timeline in the U.S., You Should Be Able to Get a COVID Vaccine by This Month, Dr. Fauci Says.

He said the U.S. vaccine approval process couldn't have been any faster.

Medical researcher uses a dropper to place a red sample onto a microscope slide

According to Fauci, the FDA "has gone over all of the raw data in real-time in a way that could not possibly have been done any more quickly." He added, "Again, that's not a judgment on someone who does it a different way."

The vaccine will take at least another week to be approved in the U.S.

Hand holds Coronavirus Covid-19 Vaccine glass bottle

With the U.K.'s vaccine ready to roll, Americans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our own vaccine approval. However, Fauci explained, "It's going to take us another week at least to get to the point where the FDA will be able to with confidence make a statement regarding safety and efficacy." And for more on the future of the coronavirus pandemic, The Vaccine Will Only Keep You Safe From COVID for This Long, Fauci Says.

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