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Fauci Reacts To AstraZeneca Coronavirus Data, Says British Vaccine Developer Made 'Unforced Error'

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has commented on the latest AstraZeneca plc (NASDAQ: AZN) coronavirus vaccine controversy, noting the company's Monday press release contains some falsehoods but that shouldn't take away from the efficacy of the vaccine.

The numbers published Monday were based on a pre-specified interim analysis with a Feb. 17 data cutoff, AstraZeneca said in a press release late Tuesday morning.

"We have reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis," the drugmaker said.

"We are now completing the validation of the statistical analysis. We will immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to share our primary analysis with the most up to date efficacy data. We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours."

What Happened: The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said Monday evening that the British drugmaker included outdated data in its COVID-19 vaccine update. Fauci, the NIAID director, clarified on ABC News' "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning that this appears to be an "unforced error" and an "unfortunate" situation because the vaccine itself is "very good."

"If you look at it, the data really are quite good but when they put it into the press release it wasn't completely accurate," he said, according to a Reuters transcript.

American officials at a data and safety morning board "got concerned" that outdated data "might in fact be misleading a bit," he said.

Related Link: AstraZeneca 'Very Comfortable' With COVID-19 Vaccine's Effectiveness In Preventing Severe Disease: Exec

Why It's Important: AstraZeneca's public relations problems with its vaccine rollout date back to late 2020, when it acknowledged a mistake in the vaccine dosage that was given to some participants. Multiple European countries have temporarily paused the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout amid concerns of a small number of recipients developing blood clots.

The latest controversy could further erode confidence in the vaccine. U.S. officials will "independently go over every bit of data themselves" and will not count on the company's interpretation, Fauci also said.

What's Next: One key question moving forward that will likely need to be cleared up in the near-term is clarification on what specific pieces of data in AstraZeneca's release are wrong.

"People need to feel comfortable with these vaccines, so this is not a good situation for the company to be in," CNBC's Meg Tirrell reported Tuesday morning.

"The fact that Dr. Fauci is saying that the vaccine data are likely still very good but the press release is not quite accurate — it makes me wonder what did they say in the press release that wasn't right. And we just don't know that right now."

AZN Price Action: AstraZeneca shares were down 2.93% at $49.70 at last check Tuesday.

NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House photo.

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