A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) says it has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines and will begin immunizing residents immediately.

"In accordance with the Ontario government’s mandate for the immunization of priority populations, the vaccines will be administered to residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes starting Jan. 13," the EOHU said in a press release. "Local paramedics and public health nurses from the EOHU will administer the vaccines within the LTC homes."

The EOHU covers areas including Cornwall, Prescott-Russell, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and the northern portion of Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

The first batch of vaccines are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but the EOHU says it anticipates Moderna vaccines will arrive in the region in the coming weeks.

“This is excellent news for our region,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health in a press release. “Vaccinating residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes will help protect our most vulnerable residents, who have been the most harshly affected by the spread of COVID-19.”

The EOHU did not immediately say how many doses of the vaccine were delivered. Ontario has received 196,025 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Jan. 7, according to Health Canada, 143,325 of which are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"It is anticipated that by this fall (or sooner), anyone who wants a vaccine will have access to one," the EOHU said. "The EOHU will notify the public as the vaccine becomes available to different population groups."

With the arrival of the vaccine, Dr. Roumeliotis continues to urge residents to follow health protocols to limit transmission of COVID-19.

“While the arrival of the vaccine in our region is a great first step towards protecting our community, the reality is that it will be a number of months before the vaccine is available to everyone who wants it. In the meantime, we are seeing COVID-19 infections rapidly increasing in our area and across the country,” says Dr. Roumeliotis. “We must continue to maintain public health measures like masking, physical distancing and proper hand washing to protect our community until enough of our population has been immunized and the pandemic is brought under control.”

There are currently 637 active cases of COVID-19 in the EOHU region, with 19 people in hospital and five in the ICU. There are 13 ongoing outbreaks.