By Nick Emmons WBZ-TV

WORCESTER (CBS) — UMass Memorial in Worcester is preparing for its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines this week. Director of Clinical Pharmacy Services Elizabeth Radigan said the UMass Memorial hospital system is ready.

“We are really excited that we’re able to take this next step against the pandemic, and really improve the overall health of our community,” she said.

UMass Memorial has been hit hard by the virus, as many as 20 caregivers a day have been missing work because of COVID in recent weeks.

Staff at UMass Memorial have been preparing for the vaccine’s arrival by holding test runs, making sure they have the process down so they’re able to effectively and efficiently administer the doses. Several vaccine rooms have been set up at UMass Memorial facilities, where caregivers can receive their first dose.

Nurses will be able to see a caregiver every five-to-10 minutes. Radigan says, “we’re excited that we can immunize up to about 500 employees a day at each campus during these events.”

Side effects are a concern, as 10-15% of caregivers who receive the vaccine could have a reaction that causes them to miss work. “As to be expected with any vaccine, there are some side effects,” says Radigan, “we’re well prepared if anyone has a side effect that is serious.”

To prevent any one unit from losing a portion of its employees to side effects, Radigan says they will be keeping a close eye on employee groups who sign up for appointments to receive the vaccine. “If we see there’s a large group from a particular area that has signed up for a particular day, we will be contacting them via phone to say, ‘is there a chance you can reschedule your appointment?’ We don’t want everyone to come in on one day.”

UMass Memorial expects to have all front line caregivers receive their first dose over the next six-to-eight weeks, and the final dose completed in the next three-to-four months. For Radigan, it’s the beginning of the end of this pandemic. “It’s a really exciting time in history, and certainly in healthcare.”

The first 1,950 doses are expected to arrive from Pfizer Tuesday morning and will start being administered to front line caregivers Thursday.