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Cleveland area hospitals begin distributing COVID-19 vaccines

Frontline health care workers will be the first to get the shots. Two doses must be taken across the span of a few weeks.

CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 vaccine is finally in Cleveland. 

Three local facilities received the vaccine by UPS on Tuesday: MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic and the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System.

Dr. Ann Avery, Director of MetroHealth Infectious Diseases, said plans for the first shipment were already in place.

“We have 975 doses we received today and those will be the first doses for 975 healthcare workers and then we will receive additional doses for their second dose,” she said.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was shipped at an extreme cold temperature and arrived in Cleveland in a special container to keep it frozen. Sam Calabrese, the Cleveland Clinic Chief Pharmacy Officer says the transfer to the ultra-deep freezer to store it has to be quick.

“It is an ultra-cold vaccine, so it does come on dry ice. We have three minutes from when we open that container to get it into the minus 80 freezers,” says Calabrese.

RELATED: Cleveland Clinic offers updated look inside 'freezer farm' storage procedures for COVID-19 vaccine

After months of meetings and planning to track, receive, and store the vaccine, MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic, and the VA started giving the vaccine Wednesday. MetroHealth staff members were among the first to receive the shots this afternoon.

Brett Carroll, the Vaccine Coordinator at VA Northeast Ohio Health System says they’re ready to begin vaccinations.

“As far as planning, our plan is to start tomorrow (Wednesday) with our employee clinic which will include our healthcare workers and our CLC which is our nursing home area,” says Carroll.

Cleveland's VA was one of 37 nationwide to get the vaccine. The reason they received 2,975 doses is because of the large region they serve as a government organization. Wednesday's vaccinations will include both healthcare workers, and veterans who live in long term congregate care living facilities.

Doctors say now that the vaccine is here, they’re ready to go.

“A lot of planning that goes into place because the vaccine is so time sensitive and we need to make sure that we do it in a way that gets everybody vaccinated as promptly and safety as possible,” says Avery.

“It’s now time to execute those plans that we’ve been making for weeks and get the vaccination into the arms of our caregivers and begin the healing process and to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Calabrese.

Laura Caso had more on this story during Tuesday's edition of What's Next. Watch below:

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