ELGIN COUNTY -- COVID-19 vaccinations have begun at some of the region’s hardest hit long term care homes.

Southwestern Public Health announced in a news release that 118 residents at Maple Manor in Tillsonburg, Extendicare in Port Stanley, and Peoplecare in Tavistock were administered the Pfyzer vaccine Tuesday.

The region, which covers Elgin and Oxford counties, has a total of 1,378 long term care residents to vaccinate, along with 500 retirement home residents.

“We are so happy to share a good news story during an otherwise difficult time,” said Dr. Joyce Lock, the region’s medical officer of health in the news release. “As a result of significant planning and strong partnership, the Pfizer vaccine was transferred London Health Sciences Centre to homes in our region assessed to have an urgent need. Yesterday was an exciting first step in protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”

Only those who have not contracted the COVID-19 virus have been given the vaccine so far, due to supply concerns. “Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 will have a level of natural immunity upon recovery,” said the release.

The health unit says this milestone is the result of a partnership London Health Sciences Centre, Oxford County Emergency Medical Services, and staff at Southwestern Public Health and the local care homes.

Vaccination for staff at these homes began in December at the Western Fair Agriplex in London, and is ongoing.

Southwestern Public Health said it’s working closely with London Health Sciences Centre to ensure first doses of the two-dose vaccine are administered to eligible long term care and retirement home staff, residents, and essential care-givers by mid-February.