EU regulator says emails on evaluating coronavirus vaccines leaked online

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Several internal and confidential emails about the evaluation process of COVID-19 vaccines have been leaked on the internet in a cyber attack on the European Medicines Agency that it disclosed last month, the regulator said on Friday.

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The drug watchdog of the European Union did not provide more details, but was sharply critical of its impact. “Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines,” it said.

Read more: EU reveals plan for new cybersecurity rules after COVID-19 vaccine data hack

However, it allayed worries surrounding its processes, especially at a time when rising infection rates in Europe has made approval of vaccines an urgent need.

“There has always been consensus across the EU not to compromise the high-quality standards... Authorizations are granted when the evidence shows convincingly that the benefits of vaccination are greater than any risks of the vaccine,” the watchdog said.

Hacking attempts against healthcare and medical organizations have intensified during the pandemic as attackers ranging from state-backed spies to cyber criminals hunt for valuable information.

The EMA has not so far named any third parties affected by the breach, but Pfizer and BioNTech have come forward to say that their documents were accessed in the cyber attack.