Hacked documents on COVID-19 vaccines have been "manipulated" and leaked on the internet, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday.
The EMA said in a statement that the Internal and confidential email correspondence dating from November which was hacked in a cyberattack related to "evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines".
The unlawfully accessed documents have since been leaked on the internet and "some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines," the EMA said.
The agency did not provide any details on how the documents were altered.
Italian cybersecurity firm Yarix said it found the 33-megabyte leak on a well-known underground forum with the title "Astonishing fraud! Evil Pfffizer! Fake vaccines!" It was apparently first posted on Dec. 30 and later appeared on other sites, including on the dark web, the company said on its website.
Yarix said "the intention behind the leak by cybercriminals is certain: to cause significant damage to the reputation and credibility of EMA and Pfizer."
The EMA, which was criticised by several member states in December for not being quick enough in approving the Pfizer vaccine, said that "amid the high infection rate in the EU, there is an urgent public health need to make vaccines available to EU citizens as soon as possible."
"Despite this urgency, there has always been consensus across the EU not to compromise the high-quality standards and to base any recommendation on the strength of the scientific evidence on a vaccine’s safety, quality and efficacy, and nothing else.
"Authorisations are granted when the evidence shows convincingly that the benefits of vaccination are greater than any risks of the vaccine," it went on, adding that "necessary action is being taken by the law enforcement authorities."
The EMA approved the Pfizer/BioNtech jab on December 21 and the Moderna vaccine in early January. It is expected to authorise the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine later this month.