Top US scientist Anthony Fauci has urged China to release the medical records of nine people who fell sick with a coronavirus-like illness prior to the outbreak, saying they could provide insights into whether the pandemic came from a lab.
The "lab leak" theory has gained increasing traction, fueled by reports that six miners fell ill in 2012 and three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in 2019 after visiting a bat cave in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In an interview with The Financial Times on Thursday, US President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor said the records could answer critical questions over the contested origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan, where a pandemic that has killed over 3.6 million people worldwide began.
"I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019," Fauci said. "Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?
"The same with the miners who got ill years ago… What do the medical records of those people say?" he asked.
"It is entirely conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab."
Fauci has previously said he believes COVID-19 was a natural occurrence, though he has admitted to not being "100 percent" certain.
China wholly rejects the lab leak theory, and has instead accused the US of peddling conspiracies and politicising the pandemic to divert attention from the high death rates there. Evidence to support the hypothesis is also scant.
UK regulator approves Pfizer for 12 to 15-year-olds
Britain's medicines regulator said Friday the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe for adolescents aged 12 to 15 after a "rigorous review," following similar assessments in the European Union and the United States.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the two-shot jab following clinical trials among younger age groups, saying the vaccine had met the "expected standards" of safety, quality, and effectiveness.
A government committee on vaccination will now decide if and when to begin administering doses to the age bracket.
"We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data in children aged 12 to 15 years and have concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk," MHRA chief executive June Raine said.
Japan donates more than 1 million jabs to Taiwan
More than one million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine donated by Japan arrived in Taiwan on Friday, as the island struggles to secure jabs and accuses China of interference.
The move stirred anger in Beijing, which views democratic and self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and works to keep the island diplomatically isolated.
"We have received requests from various countries and areas for the provision of vaccines," Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters in Tokyo.
"At this point, we have finished the arrangement for the request from Taiwan. And we will deliver free of charge 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines that have been produced in Japan."