By Lisa Gresci

MELROSE (CBS) – Residents and staff at long-term care facilities in Massachusetts began getting the COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

CVS said about 173,000 patients in 2,000 nursing homes and assisted living centers will get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine this week.

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CVS teams will make three visits to each facility to make sure both residents and staff receive the initial shot and the second booster. They’re hoping to complete the long-term care vaccination program in 12 weeks.

CVS Health pharmacy manager Vicki Saengkheune started her day at a facility in Leominster. She vaccinated the health care workers there and then residents in their rooms.

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“Those patients are the most at risk for contracting this virus so it’s really important to protect them,” she told WBZ-TV.

“We are scheduled to go to various facilities throughout the state. Everyone has a specified date and time and then three weeks later we will be coming back to administer the booster.”

Shirley Nolan, a retired teacher, was the first resident vaccinated at the Benjamin Healthcare Center in Mission Hill Monday morning. (WBZ-TV)

CVS said the vaccine will eventually be available to the general public at thousands of their pharmacies across the country in 2021.

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For more information, visit their website.

Lisa Gresci