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Canada administers first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

A health-care worker watches as the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are delivered to the Maimonides CHSLD in Montreal, Canada, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in Montreal. The long-term care facility is slated to be one of the first in Canada to administer the vaccine. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — Canada administered its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, becoming one of the first countries to do so in the effort to beat back the pandemic.

Five front-line workers in Ontario were among the first Canadians to receive the vaccine at one of Toronto’s hospitals.

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker who worked throughout a COVID-19 outbreak at the Rekai Centre nursing home in Toronto, got the first dose in Ontario.

“This is a victory day for science,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, president and CEO of Toronto’s University Health Network. “Here we are today breaking the back of this horrible virus.”

More of Canada’s initial 30,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to cross the border on Monday. The Canadian government recently amended its contract with Pfizer and BioNTech so that it would deliver up to 249,000 doses this month.

“It was very emotional for me,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who witnessed the first vaccination in Quebec. “I cried.”

Hajdu said Canadians must keep protecting each other.

“It’s a first step. We have much work ahead of us. These are difficult times,” she said.

Ontario reported 1,940 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, and 23 new deaths while Quebec announced 1,620 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 more deaths

Canada’s health regulator approved the vaccine for use last week.

Ontario received 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday night and plans to give them to approximately 2,500 health-care workers.

Residents of two long-term care homes in Quebec are among receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in that province.

People in Britain and the United States are also starting to receive coronavirus vaccines.

The encouraging developments come as the coronavirus continues surging across much of the world.

Canada has contracts with six other vaccine makers and is currently reviewing three other vaccines, including one by Moderna that Canadian health officials said could be approved soon.

Canada has ordered more doses than needed for Canadians but the government eventually plans to donate excess supply to impoverished countries.