CUMBRIA'S director of public health says he's cautiously optimistic that a vaccine for covid-19 could start to be rolled out as early as next month - if claims of its effectiveness are borne-out.

This week pharmaceutical giant Pfizer claimed it's jab was 90 per cent effective.

But Colin Cox, who was speaking during an online Facebook Q&A session, on Tuesday, said it was too early to "relax our guard" and that more work needs to be done ensure it was safe.

However he also said that measures in place to control the virus could give people "a fighting chance of some good news for Christmas".

Mr Cox said: "We have had some interesting and potentially optimistic news.

"Overall it's left me feeling slightly optimistic.

"The vaccine by Pfizer is looking like it is proving highly effective.

"We don't have it yet so we can't relax our guard.

"They still have some work to do - to analyse its safety data and they'll need to make sure that is completely sorted.

"They can then present it for proper regulation and approval, and when that happens they will then have to manufacture it in huge quantities.

"So assuming that everything is as positive, as the announcement suggests, we might start to see the rollout of the vaccination programme mid to late December at the earliest.

"It will be small numbers and highly targeted, we are going to have to wait until the news year to start a mass vaccination campaign, even if this vaccine proves freely available.

"So while it is hugely positive and really good news there is still quite a long way to go before we are through all of this."

He also gave an overview of the situation in Cumbria, adding: "That optimism is bolstered by the rate of cases we are seeing across Cumbria - the number of cases is still going up but the rate has slowed.

"Overall we have a slightly lower rate of new cases than in the country as a whole, that does disguise a number of differences across the county."

He said Carlisle's rate in Carlisle slightly above the England average but was "fairly stable".

Copland's rate, though rising "quickly" was at the England average, and Allerdale's was just below the average.

He added: "I hope that the lockdown measures put in place to start to reduce cases further so we can have a fighting chance of good news for Christmas."