CUMBRIA’S director of public health is hopeful the first vaccine will be administered in the county this side Christmas.

Speaking to the News & Star after the announcement yesterday that the e UK became the first country in the world to approve a jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, Colin Cox said it was "brilliant news".

The vaccine - which was approved by the the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) - has been shown in studies to be 95 per cent effective and works in all age groups.

“It is brilliant news that a vaccine has been approved, it is really positive,” said Mr Cox.

“It is really great but it is the start of beating this in the long-term," said Mr Cox. "It is going to be a long end game but this is the start of the end game. We have not got any vaccines yet. Clearly it will start to roll out to us, but it is something that will take time.

“It needs to be distributed and there is a lot of demand for this across the world, not just in the UK. We will hopefully see some of the start of this (in Cumbria) this side of Christmas, but we will not be in the process of mass vaccination this side of Christmas. If we do see something happening, it will start relatively small scale.”

Mr Cox said the speed in which the whole population could be vaccinated would depend on a number of factors, including what other vaccines were available. He said the availability of the Oxford vaccine would “speed things up”

“Things will look considerably better in spring but I don’t think this will be over in spring,” explained Mr Cox.

“This next phase (of the approach to the virus) will take months not weeks. We will see a gradual easing and as more people start to get vaccines not everybody will have."

The public health director says “an enormous amount” of work has been done to prepare the county for the logistics of rolling out a vaccine, with his team supporting NHS-led operations.

“Once we get the vaccine, we will be ready to go,” he said. Mr Cox urged people not to become complacent.

“We are coming through this, so don’t start taking risks when a vaccine is in sight. You have to ask yourself how much risk are you willing to take to see people over Christmas?"

Meanwhile, the health secretary announced relatives of all care home residents in England will be able to visit over the Christmas period if they test negative for Covid-19.

Mr Cox urged people not to "just turn up" to care homes expecting a test. He said capacity is being rolled out but it will not be immediately ready in many care homes. Mr Cox urged people to contact the care home before travel.