THE North-East must receive its "fair share" of the Covid vaccine as it is rolled out next week, it has been claimed.

The Government is facing calls to ensure the region is among the first to see the newly-approved Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine rolled out.

It comes as leaders of the seven councils in the north of our region have this afternoon said they "stand ready" to support the NHS in the mass immunisation programme.

The Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley Ben Houchen said it was vitally "important" that those who need the vaccine most in our region, are among the first to get it.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health confirmed the vaccine had been approved after “months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts” from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulator Agency.

It said the UK has ordered 40m doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20m people – while the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson confirmed care home residents would be among the first to be vaccinated.

This afternoon, council leaders and politicians across the North-East welcomed the “extremely positive” turn of events as the Government was urged to ensure the region was among the first to see vaccinations take place.

In a statement on behalf of council leaders in County Durham, Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, they said the maximum of support would be offered as residents were urged to continue "doing their bit."

'We stand ready to support the NHS'

They said: “Rolling out this vaccine is going to be a mammoth operational challenge with many complexities, but the local authorities stand ready to support the NHS in whatever way we can.

“Across the North-East we will focus on ensuring that those high-risk groups are prioritised and are working with Newcastle Hospitals Trust, who are acting on behalf of all NHS partners, to coordinate the vaccine rollout over the coming months and in the longer term.

"Population wide vaccination will not happen overnight, so we need to be patient and continue to follow all the existing guidance around social distancing, hand washing, face coverings and responding appropriately if we think we have symptoms.

"We must all continue to do our bit and keep working together to reduce the transmission of the virus so all our hard work to date in reducing cases numbers is not thrown away."

It is understood that the Nightingale Hospitals in both Washington, near Sunderland and Harrogate in North Yorkshire, have been earmarked as sites for mass vaccination clinics.

While hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacists across England have also been placed on standby ahead of the roll-out.

The Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen said it was vitally important for the region to get its “fair share” and ensure its residents among the first to receive the vaccine.

'It would not be right for us to be back of the queue'

He told The Northern Echo: “This is a seismic moment in our fight against the coronavirus.

"Millions of people have been waiting for this moment and we can finally say we are on the cusp of finding a way to defeat this deadly virus that has caused so much misery and hardship for all of us.

“There could be no better early Christmas present than getting the vaccine, which could happen for some as early as next week.

“This approval of the vaccine today show it is safe to use and ready to be rolled out, and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of it as soon as they are able to.

“Now this vaccine has been approved, it is important that here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, we get our fair share.

“It is essential that the people who need this vaccine the most get it first, but that should be the case across the UK, and it would not be right for us to be at the back of the queue because we are furthest away from London.”

Mr Houchen paid his tributes to those who had worked “tirelessly” to bring the vaccine to fruition as he said the region would soon be able to return to normality.

He added: "Thanks to their incredible expertise and hard work, we will soon be able to visit and hug our loved ones, get back to football stadiums and concerts, and do all the things that we love to do and have missed so much in the last year.”

This morning, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that 50 hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine.