THE HEALTH secretary has said he hopes the Teesside made Covid-19 vaccine will be approved and "in arms" later this year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was in Middlesbrough today to campaign with Ben Houchen, the Conservative's candidate to be Tees Valley Mayor, said he hoped the Novavax vaccine could be used as part of a vaccine booster programme.

The vaccine, which is yet to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), is being manufactured in Billingham by Fujifilm Diosynth Technologies.

Mr Hancock, speaking outside a pub in Middlesbrough, said: "We're working with Novavax and MHRA to get the sign off of the vaccine.

"That's not in my hands. I'm very respectful of the regulator's decision making. One of the reasons uptake for the vaccine has been so high in the UK is the people respect the fact that we have an independent regulator checking the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine."

It is thought the vaccine could be a "prime candidate" to be used as a booster vaccine, due to that way it complements the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, Mr Hancock said.

He added: "It will be later this year, I would like to say which month but I can't because I don't want to prejudge the MHRA'S independence.

"We hope the Novavax vaccine will be going in people's arms later this year."

He added: "It's really exciting that a vaccine made on Teesside is going to play an important part."