A RUSSIAN campaign has been launched to discredit the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, The Times reports.

It aims to spread fear about the vaccine with claims that it will turn people into apes because it uses a 'chimpanzee virus'. 

In an investigation by The Times, journalists found that images have been circulating of Prime Minister Boris Johnson as 'bigfoot' walking along Whitehall. It says there’s evidence that Russian officials are involved.

ALSO READ: Oxford Brookes student says elderly should ‘stay at home’

The campaign has the potential to harm the Oxford programme.

Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, spoke this morning on BBC Radio 4 about the danger of false information.

He said: "I think in this context that we’re in at the moment, any misinformation where we’re trying to think of interventions that we can have in the future to help end the pandemic - whether those are new treatments or vaccines - anything that undermines that and undermines trust in the public health approach that’s been taken, could be extremely dangerous.

"Vaccines are an important cornerstone in public health for children that anything that drives that wider view in societies around the world that there’s something unsafe about them really risks the health of children around the world as well."

He debunked the chimpanzee myth.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus testing centre approved for Oxford

The professor said: "The type of vaccine that we have is very similar to a number of other vaccines that are being developed at the moment, including the Russian vaccine, all of which use the common cold virus from different species, humans as well as from chimpanzees - and that virus to our bodies looks the same, it’s the same family of viruses whether they’re human or chimpanzee viruses.

“We don’t actually have any chimpanzees at all involved in the process of making a vaccine because it’s all about the virus not about the animal that it might more commonly infect.

"This virus, whether it’s a human one or the one that infects chimpanzees - is used to take the genetic material from the coronavirus into the vaccine as a shuttle to allow our immune systems to then make an immune response."

He said it would be 'extremely unfortunate' if the conspiracy was being driven to undermine confidence in the Oxford vaccine.