HACKERS have accessed data on the Pfizer Covid vaccine in a cyber attack on the EU's medicines regulator.
The European Medicines Agency – which is responsible for approving new drugs for the EU – has launched a probe after the attack, but assured vaccine-makers it would not delay approvals.
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Data relating to the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was accessed during the attack.
The attack relates to the vaccine that was approved in the UK for use on December 2, with the first jabs taking place on Tuesday.
Now the UK's National Cyber Security Centre is probing the situation's impact on British data and has been investigating whether the medicines regulator – the MHRA – has been affected.
An NCSC spokesperson said: “We are working with international partners to understand the impact of this incident affecting the EU’s medicine regulator."
Investigations are continuing, but the NCSC said there is "currently no evidence to suggest that the UK’s medicine regulator has been affected".
BioNTech yesterday revealed details of the attack by cyber hackers.
"We were informed by the European Medicines Agency that the agency has been subject to a cyber-attack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed," BioNTech said.
"EMA has assured us that the cyber-attack will have no impact on the timeline for its review."
The EMA has said it will complete its review for use of the vaccine in Europe by December 29.
BioNTech said it had made details of the cyber attack public "given the critical public health considerations and the importance of transparency".
It said it was "unaware" of any personal data of people taking part in its medical studies being compromised.
The EMA is currently deciding whether to to give emergency approval to a number of vaccines including Pfizer's.
Scientists at the Amsterdam-based EMA are closely examining the data from large scale clinical trials.
Today, the regulator said: "EMA has been the subject of a cyberattack.
"The Agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant entities.
“EMA cannot provide additional details whilst the investigation is ongoing,
“Further information will be made available in due course.”
It comes after a series of other cyber attacks apparently aiming to steal information on coronavirus vaccines or disrupt the supply chain.
Hackers linked to North Korea, Iran, Vietnam, China and Russia have on separate occasions been accused of trying to steal information about the virus and its potential treatments.
Last week tech giant IBM said it had uncovered evidence hackers were targeting the "cold supply chain" to deliver vaccines.
It reportedly did not include the new Pfizer jab, which was given to the first members of the public in the UK yesterday.
Pfizer's vaccine was okayed by regulators in the UK last week and by Canadian authorities today.
Last month hackers suspected to be linked to North Korea targeted drug company AstraZeneca with bogus WhatsApp and LinkedIn messages.
It is believed they wanted access to information on the Covid vaccine the firm is making in partnership with Oxford University scientists.
In July, hackers backed by China targeted US company Moderna, which has also developed an effective vaccine.
And Vladimir Putin was said to be behind attempts by hacking group Cozy Bear to steal secrets from UK vaccine scientists.
Yesterday FireEye, one of the world's biggest cybersecurity firm which works to thwart hackers, was itself the target of an attack.
It boss said the "sniper shot" attack could have come from Russia.
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