CUMBRIA’S director of public health is hopeful the first vaccine, dubbed 'the light at the end of the tunnel' by MP Tim Farron, will be administered in the county this side of the Christmas.

Colin Cox was speaking after the announcement yesterday that the UK became the first country in the world to approve a jab from Pfizer and BioNTech.

The vaccine - which was approved yesterday by the he 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. 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.”

The Westmorland Gazette: Tim Farron.Tim Farron.

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said: “The vaccine really is the light at the end of the tunnel that we’ve all been looking for.

“I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has been working day and night to help reach this moment.

“After a year of pain, hardship, grief and loss, it’s so good to finally have hope again.”

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 clearly as more and more people start to get vaccines not everybody will have.

"There will be some easing but I don’t know how that will look in practice."

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. “We are coming through this, so don’t start taking risks when a vaccine is in sight.”