Hull East MP Karl Turner is set to step up his campaign to ensure freight services between Hull and Zeebrugge could be used for the distribution of a new coronavirus vaccine.

He says the route operated by P&O could play a vital role in delivering supplies of the Pfizer vaccine which is being made in Belgium.

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the use of the vaccine,

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he expected the first batch of 800,000 doses could be deployed across the country as early as next week.

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P&O Ferries Pride of York and her sister ship the Pride of Bruges sail between Hull and Zeebrugge

The UK has ordered 40 million doses - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

The Pfizer manufacturing site in Antwerp is a 95-minute drive from Zeebrugge.

It's believed long-term shipping arrangements to the UK are still being finalised with both air and sea routes under consideration.

One of the main logistical issues involved in its distribution is the need to keep stocks of the vaccine stored at temperatures under minus 80 degrees Celsius.

Once in the UK, supplies are expected to be stored in major hospitals with suitable cold storage facilities.

It's understood that the Hull Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill hospital in Cottingham, has such a facility.

The intention is then for hospitals to set up special on-site clinics to administer the vaccine on a priority basis, starting with care home residents and staff who look after them.

Hull East MP Karl Turner and health secretary Matt Hancock
Hull East MP Karl Turner and health secretary Matt Hancock

Frontline hospital workers in Hull and Cottingham as well black, Asian and and minority ethnic staff at the heath trust are also expected to offered jabs in the initial stages of the roll-out.

Mr Turner has been lobbying P&O and the goverment after the ferry company announced it was reviewing the future of passenger services on the Hull to Zeebrugge route.

P&O says freight services between the ports will continue but Mr Turner remains unconvinced.

He has tabled a question for transport secretary Grant Shapps over the issue for a scheduled session in the House of Commons on Friday.

He said: "The loss of a critical element of UK freight capacity in P&O’s Hull-Zeebrugge route will not only be a devastating blow to jobs and trade in my constituency.

"But as one of the most direct routes between Pfizer’s Belgian factory and hard-hit areas in the north of England, it could have a severe impact on the rapid roll-out of their Covid vaccine, which I am delighted to see has been this week approved for use."

He said he wanted Mr Shapps to ensure P&O honoured its commitments to maintaining freight services between the two ports.