MOUNT VERNON — More than 100 area health care workers received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

At 7 a.m., two registered nurses, Tessa Olson and Janine Cook, received the first inoculations given in Skagit County. Olson works at Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington and Cook at Skagit Valley Hospital.

The doses were the first of two each recipient will need of the newly released Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The doses are given about three weeks apart.

“It was so exciting,” said Dr. Connie Davis, Skagit Regional Health’s chief medical officer. “It makes us feel like we’re part of the overall initiative. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city or small community, you can have access to the same technology, the same protection.”

Davis said health care workers who work most frequently with COVID-19 patients or potential COVID-19 patients were given highest priority to receive the vaccine.

“They wanted to get themselves out there and get protected. Their goal is to take care of the community,” Davis said. “It’s amazing, the technology in general and how fast the scientific community put all this together. It’s the old-fashioned American initiative: If we all row in same direction, we can get it done.”

Davis said as of Monday afternoon there had been no reported adverse side effects other than expected soreness at the injection site.

Skagit County received 975 doses Thursday of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Laura Han, spokesperson for Skagit County, said Monday morning the arrival date of more doses is not known.

Health care workers from the two hospitals and from urgent care facilities were part of the first day of vaccinations Monday. Vaccinations are expected to continue throughout the week, including the weekend.

Olson and Cook are experienced health care employees.

Olson has worked in health care for 12 years, joined the acute care team at Cascade Valley Hospital two years ago when she became a registered nurse, and transferred to the critical care unit in August. Cook has worked at Skagit Valley Hospital for 23 years and is a relief charge nurse in the critical care unit. She’s been caring for COVID-19 patients since March.

Both hospitals are part of Skagit Regional Health, which has about 2,600 employees classified as 1A, meaning they are eligible to receive early vaccinations because they are high-risk health care workers.

High-risk health care workers, and residents and employees of long-term care facilities — an estimated 500,000 statewide — are in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, according to a news release from the state Department of Health.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @goskagit, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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