Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has said that the UK was not as rigorous as the US in its Covid-19 vaccine approval process.
The UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine for the coronavirus.
“The UK did not do it as carefully,” he told Fox News. “If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated.”
The UK has defended its process, and said the jab is safe and effective.
Dr June Raine, the head of the UK medicines regulator, on Wednesday said that “no corners had been cut” in vetting the jab. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reviewed preliminary data on the vaccine trials dating back to June.
“No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met,” the regulator said.
On Thursday, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC he was “very confident” in the MHRA.
He said there was more than “100 years of medical experience” between the UK regulator and the committee advising which groups of people are vaccinated first.
And UK education secretary Gavin Williamson attributed the UK’s expedited process to the regulator’s “brilliant clinicians”.
Dr Fauci’s remarks come as the US nears 14 million total Covid-19 infections, with a recorded 273,590 deaths.
The top doctor has said he believed that the US would have vaccine approval soon, and defended the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its review process.
“The way the FDA is, our FDA is doing it, is the correct way,” he said on Fox News. “We really scrutinize the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine.”
Speaking to CBS on Thursday, Dr Fauci said again he thought the UK “really rushed through that approval”.
“They kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and jointed it in the last mile,” he said with a laugh.
The FDA plans to meet on 10 December to discuss approval for the UK-approved vaccine, which was created through a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech.
They will meet again on 17 December to discuss a second vaccine – Moderna’s request.
And also on Thursday, Dr Fauci told CBS News he will meet with members of President-elect Joe Biden’s team to discuss the incoming administration’s response to the pandemic.
Mr Biden had said that President Donald Trump’s initial refusal to engage in the transition process, and to co-ordinate planning for vaccine distribution, could cost American lives.
Dr Fauci told CBS that he agreed with Mr Biden that it was “possible” the US might see an additional 250,000 deaths by January.
He has led the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) for more than 30 years, and has become the most visible member of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
He has clashed repeatedly with Mr Trump since the onset of the pandemic, but said on Thursday that he was never prevented by the White House from speaking his mind.
“There have been bumps along the road,” he said of his interactions with the Trump administration.