I’m delighted and proud that the new Novavax vaccine – the first vaccine proven to be effective against Covid’s latest mutation – will soon be manufactured in Stockton.

Straight after my election as Mayor, I set out to bang the drum for our bioscience manufacturing industry, but when I travelled in May 2018 to meet Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies executives in Japan few could imagined how consequential their commitment to Teesside was going to prove.

In November 2018 I announced that I would be investing £7 million to help deliver Fujifilm’s Billingham Biocampus project. Less than a year ago I was on site for the ground-breaking ceremony as local workers cracked on with bringing the Biocampus to life.

When, weeks later, Covid struck, I was determined that our hugely talented and world leading bioscience sector played a full role in the fight against the deadly virus. I immediately began talking with Government ministers and officials to make sure any vaccines or treatments took advantage the talented and world leading bioscience sector. This culminated in the deal struck in August last year for Fujifilm to be the sole UK manufacturer of the Novavax jab.

Now we can all celebrate that Teesside innovation and Teesside workers will now play a critical role in the nation’s fight against Covid-19 through this all-important vaccine. This all shows why it’s so important that we keep on track with my plan for jobs, investment, and growth - committing to innovation and keeping on top of the game when it comes to our globally competitive skills base.

But I am not just proud of our superbly skilled scientists, technicians, and manufacturing and construction workers. I’m proudest of all of our best asset, the people of Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool, whose willingness to help others has been a testimony to Teesside spirit.

Making this vaccine wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding work of the staff at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, which was the main location for the vaccine stage 3 trials, their great clinicians, and the amazing 532 local people who stepped forward to take part in these trials as volunteers.

Young and old, from all backgrounds, these people have played a crucial role in giving us the hope we need that we will beat the virus and that brighter days will come. I’d like to thank them for all they have done for us. I’m confident that the spirit and skill they and other local people have shown, combined with our technological might and strategic focus, will see Teesside come back from this pandemic better than ever before.

For nearly a year now the coronavirus has dominated every aspect of our lives, throughout the pandemic I have been immense proud of the community spirt that Teessiders have shown. There have been some dark days, but with a fourth vaccine soon available, and jabs going into millions of arms there really is now light at the end of the tunnel.