THE Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant of Covid-19.

Early data from the study also shows the jab can protect against severe disease caused by the mutation.

The preliminary findings from a small study of more than 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy, are due to be published tomorrow.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said they had not yet been able to properly establish whether the jab would prevent severe disease and hospitalisation caused by the South African variant because those involved in the study had been young and healthy people.

It comes after research released on Friday indicated that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is effective at fighting the new UK coronavirus variant.

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Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said: "Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the UK indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B117, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK."

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research at Imperial College London, urged caution about the findings.

He told BBC Breakfast: "It is a very small study with just over 2,000 people and it is not published so we can only judge it from the press release and press coverage. But it is concerning to some extent that we’re seeing that it’s not effective against mild or moderate disease.”

Professor Shattock said the study participants had a mean age of around 31 and it is not yet clear how many had two doses, and at what intervals.