Data on AstraZeneca vaccine and South African variant should come soon: UK expert

FILE PHOTO: Vial and sryinge are seen in front of displayed AstraZeneca logo

LONDON (Reuters) - Data on the highly contagious COVID-19 variant identified in England do not suggest that vaccines will be less effective against it, while data on the South African variant should be available within weeks, a top British vaccines expert said.

"We have the most data on the UK variant. That doesn't suggest that it will be any less well protected against by the vaccine," said Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 Immunisation on Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Asked specifically about the South African variant, he said that Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trials had been conducted in South Africa which was an advantage in terms of data collection.

"We're told that very very soon, the Oxford and AZ trials may be able to examine in quite some detail whether their vaccine will protect against the new variant. I think that is a matter of weeks."

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Estelle Shirbon; editing by William James)