By Tony Earnshaw LDRS
Politicians across Kirklees have hailed the announcement of a vaccine for Covid-19, saying it marks a potential new beginning for hundreds of thousands of residents.
But they have urged people to continue to observe coronavirus guidelines, and to not throw away the chance to come out of the pandemic.
Leader of Kirklees Council, Shabir Pandor, said government approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was “great news” but that logistical issues connected to its roll-out led him to pin his hopes on the vaccine due from Oxford University.
Clr Pandor said: “Although the government has ordered a few million doses of the Pfizer vaccine it will be a logistical nightmare to transport it because it need to be kept at -70 degrees.
“What I’m hoping is that the Oxford vaccine will be ready in a couple of weeks, as that can be transported normally.”
And he outlined that the number of doses required in the short-term would be 90 million – nine times the number normally released for flu jabs over a three-month period.
That in itself will involve a mammoth effort in terms of organisation, transport and storage.
And there will be a rationing order, with special attention given to NHS and other key workers, care homes, the elderly and the over-80s.
He added: “I am asking people to be patient. It will take time. That means we still need to be exercising extreme caution and to follow the rules.
“We still need people’s co-operation because we still have a lot of work to do.
“I’m hopeful that the government, the NHS and local councils can all get things in place very quickly, because obviously this is a priority.”
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said he was “delighted” at news that the Pfizer vaccine had been approved and that the Oxford vaccine looked imminent.
He said: “I have always had such confidence in bioscience capacity in the UK and across Europe. It looks like this is the first of a number of vaccines and I hope they will be rolled out as soon as possible.
“We can hopefully now get back to living life normally. That’s what my constituents want.”
Dewsbury MP Mark Eastwood said the “excellent news” of the vaccine came from a ground-breaking project.
“Its success is a testament to the ingenuity of the companies involved and the Department for Health and Social Care. The task ahead is to ensure the smooth deployment of the vaccine across the country so that we can get our lives back to normal sooner rather than later.
“I am already in discussions with the minister responsible for vaccine deployment to see how we can get the job done. ”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said: “Fantastic news! We can’t though be complacent and Kirklees’ Director of Public Health said we need to be in Tier 3 to keep reducing transmission.
“Cases have come down 41% in the past week from very high rates. If cases keep coming down I’ll be lobbying hard for us to start dropping down the tiers.”
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin acknowledged the research that had gone into producing the vaccine.
She said: “Thank you to all the scientists and volunteers who helped us get to this point today. So many have sacrificed so much by staying home since March unable to hug their loved ones. A vaccine gives us hope that we can return to a degree of normality soon.”
Leaders of political groups on Kirklees Council also offered their thoughts.
Clr John Taylor, deputy leader of the Conservative group, said the approval of a first vaccine was “a vital step” in bringing the virus under control and praised those that had managed to deliver it so quickly.
“I hope it will be effective,” he said.
Leader of the Lib Dems, Clr John Lawson, said: “Everyone’s hard work and sacrifice has been about getting to this point. Our continued efforts alongside the vaccine roll-out is our path to a more normal life.
“There will be some enormous logistical problems and this is no overnight solution but we’ll all be working towards a goal rather than endlessly staving off the virus. That’s a challenge worth throwing everything at.”
His comments were echoed by Clr Charles Greaves, who leads the Holme Valley Independents.
He said: “It is unlikely that the majority of the country will be fully vaccinated before Easter.