The rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine is under way across the UK, giving hope for a way out of the crisis which changed our lives nearly a year ago.

But developing a vaccine wouldn’t have been possible without a pool of volunteers from across the country, with more than 600 people from Carlisle putting their name forward to be a part of the effort.

Researchers need people to take part in studies to find out which potential vaccine is most effective, and those involved are required to visit a hospital or research site every few months.

NHS Digital data shows 655 people from Carlisle had volunteered to take part in Coronavirus vaccine studies as of Thursday morning (January 7). Of those, the largest proportion (44 per cent) were aged between 40 and 59, while 31 per cent were aged 60 to 79.

The data also shows 395 people from Copeland had volunteered to take part in the vaccine studies. Of those, the largest proportion (39 per cent) were aged between 40 and 59, while 33 per cent were aged 60 to 79.

And 555 people from Allerdale had volunteered to take part, with the largest proportion (40 per cent) aged between 60 and 79, while 36 per cent were aged 40 to 59.

Across the North West as a whole, 40,300 people had signed up by January 7, as the national army of volunteers reached 379,000.

The figure is rising daily, as people can still put themselves forward to potentially take part in clinical trials. The studies normally involve answering questions, undergoing blood tests and injections – which could be the vaccine – and keeping a diary of any symptoms between hospital visits.

The NHS, which worked with the National Institute for Health Research to provide a volunteer service, said: “Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They are designed so they do not give people the infection they’re protecting against.

“Research into vaccines is the only way to find out which ones will work.”

Two vaccines have so far been approved in the UK – the Pfizer vaccine, which was rolled out in December, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which came into use this week after approval at the end of 2020.

Speaking about the approval of the Oxford vaccine, Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and co-lead of the NIHR, said: “There has been a considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point.

“The dedication and hard work of scientists, regulators and those who funded the research, such as the NIHR, United Kingdom Research and Innovation and United Kingdom Vaccine Network, and the willingness and selflessness of so many volunteers who took part in the vaccine trials were essential in delivering this safe and effective vaccine.

“They deserve our recognition and thanks.”

Downing Street confirmed last week that mass vaccination hubs at seven sites across England – including sports venues and London’s ExCel convention centre – will begin operations this week.

Hubs have been set up in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage, Number 10 said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the rollout of vaccines will provide a route out of the third national lockdown.

In a televised address to the nation, he said people in the top four priority groups should receive a jab by mid-February.