Biden says he asked Fauci to join his Covid-19 team; Fauci walks back criticism of UK's vaccine approval

Mr Biden also said he will get the Covid-19 vaccine when Dr Fauci says it is safe and will take it publicly. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President-elect Joe Biden has asked top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci to continue in his job and serve as Mr Biden's chief medical adviser and on the Covid-19 team after Mr Biden takes office on Jan 20, Mr Biden said on Thursday (Dec 3).

Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to Mr Biden and his team preparing to deal with the virus on Thursday, Mr Biden said in an interview with CNN.

"I asked him to stay on in the exact same role as he's had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and be part of the Covid team," said Mr Biden.

Mr Biden also said he would get the Covid-19 vaccine when Dr Fauci says it is safe and would be happy to take it publicly. "It's important to communicate to the American people it's safe, safe to do this," he said.

Despite news that vaccines against the virus may begin to be distributed in the coming weeks, the US is experiencing a new surge in hospitalisations and deaths.

The daily death toll reached its second-highest of the pandemic on Wednesday with 2,811 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally.

Mr Biden told CNN that once in office he would issue a standing order that Americans must wear masks in federal buildings and on interstate transportation such as airplanes and buses.

"I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask," Mr Biden said. "Not forever, 100 days."

Separately, Dr Fauci apologised on Thursday for casting doubt on the rigour of the British regulators who approved the Pfizer Inc vaccine against Covid-19, saying he had faith in the quality of their work.

Britain announced the approval of the vaccine on Wednesday, with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) saying it had rigorously assessed the vaccine data and had cut no corners.

It gave the UK the jump in the race to begin mass inoculation against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally and hammered the world economy.

US and European Union regulators are sifting through the same Pfizer vaccine trial data, but have yet to give their approval.

In a CBS interview on Thursday, Dr Fauci suggested the British regulators had failed to scrutinise the data carefully enough and had waved the vaccine through - comments that were prominently reported on the main British TV news channels.

He later gave an interview to the BBC in which he said his earlier comments had come out wrong.

"There really has been a misunderstanding, and for that I'm sorry, and I apologise for that," he said. "I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community in the UK," Dr Fauci said.

"I did not mean to apply any sloppiness (to the UK regulatory process), even though it came out that way," he added.

Dr Fauci said the point he had been trying to make was that in the US context, with widespread vaccine scepticism, it would not have been appropriate to conduct the process in the same way and at the same speed as what happened in Britain.

"If we had for example approved it yesterday or tomorrow, there likely would have been pushback on an already scrutinising society," he said.

"You know, at the end of the day, it's going to be safe, it's going to be effective, the people in the UK are going to receive it and they're going to do really well, and the people in the United States are going to receive it and we're going to do pretty well," Dr Fauci said.

In response to his earlier criticism, the MHRA issued a statement saying 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".

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