Watch: Julia Breen's report
Boris Johnson says he is "optimistic" he will be able to begin announcing the easing of restrictions when he sets out his "roadmap" out of lockdown in England on February 22 during a visit to the North East today.
The Prime Minister was at the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham to see where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured.
While there he praised the North East's vaccination efforts.
He says his first priority remains opening schools in England on March 8 to be followed by other sectors.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen showed Mr Johnson around the BioCampus where 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine will be manufactured, if approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The vaccine passed its UK clinical trial last month, the trials show it to be 89.3% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants, including against the new UK variant.
The Mayor says it has been a great opportunity to show the work local businesses and scientists are doing in the fight against coronavirus.
As a region Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have an enviable reputation as a centre of excellence when it comes to engineering, chemicals and processing, but now our impressive bioscience sector is getting the praise it deserves. Hopefully the vaccine will be given the go ahead by the MHRA very soon and we can start getting the Teesside vaccine into as many arms across the country as possible.
It comes as testing has been stepped up in Middlesbrough where a case of the South Africa variant has been detected.