LONDON, ONT. -- We now have a weapon in the battle against COVID-19. That’s the feeling of Karen Dann, the first person in Middlesex-London to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

“I’m very excited, this is going to be a game changer for us,” she said.

Dann, a registered nurse at Country Terrace Nursing Home in Komoka, received the vaccine Wednesday morning at the Western Fair Agriplex, which is serving as a field hospital and now a vaccination centre.

Health-care workers and reporters were on hand for the first, which drew applause from the crowd of a couple dozen.

The significance of the event was not lost on Dann.

“We have been in a 10, 11-month battle now with COVID that we are not winning. We’re not winning in the community and we’re certainly not winning in the long-term care homes. We’ve got our armour but we’ve never had a weapon. Today we have a weapon.”

She added that it was “a momentous occasion to know that we are now going to move ahead into better times and we are not going to be under the pressure we are in these nursing homes. We’re in a better place now.”

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) Chief Operating Officer Neil Johnson provided members of the media a tour of the vaccination centre, which has been set up inside the field hospital at the Western Fair Agriplex. He said staff are pumped.

“We know that this is a game-changer for our community. Some people call it the beginning of the end of the first phase, or the end of the beginning, but...This is really the only tool that we’ve had to combat COVID.”

But the happy milestone was tempered by news of a grim one. The area set a new one-day record for new COVID-19 cases, with the Middlesex-London Helth Unit (MLHU reporting 88 on Wednesday. That beats the previous daily record of 87, which was set Saturday.

MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie used the occasion to implore residents to follow COVID-19 guidelines over the holidays. He said the high number is unlikely to be our peak.

“I think we will continue to see more cases beore that comes down. So really the message today is that there is hope. And I hope that hope can be used to fortify our strength, to push through the restrictions, and continue to limit close contacts, wear your personal protective equipment and masks, etc. In particular please don’t have parties in your home with anyone outside of your household.”

Vaccinations for local health-care workers begin right away.

LHSC says the province has provided several thousand doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, but couldn’t say exactly how many.