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.

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

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“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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