Canadians will receive the first coronavirus vaccine Monday beginning at a Toronto hospital and two Montreal long-term care homes.

While the delivery of 30,000 doses Sunday is an “important step” in the battle against the virus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians that they must continue to follow the advice of health officials and wash hands frequently, wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

“This is good news,” he said. “But our fight against COVID-19 is not over. Now more than ever, let’s keep up our vigilance.”

As of Monday, Canada had 465,203 cases and 13,464 deaths, according to the website of US-based John Hopkins University of Medicine, which keeps a running total of coronavirus statistics worldwide.

Canadian long-term care homes and retirement facilities have been hard hit by the virus, with about 77% (9,500) of COVID-19 deaths as of the end of November.

The president of Montreal’s West Island Health and Social Services said Monday the arrival of the vaccine there is much anticipated.

“Everybody is excited, they’re all very happy,” said Francine Dupuis. “At last, some good news in the health system. We’re all very delighted. It’s going to protect themselves and it’s going to protect those around them.”

But even after receiving the initial dose, the danger remains. And two doses are needed 21 days apart for the vaccine to become robustly effective.

According to an article published Dec. 11 in the respected British Medical Journal, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, “may provide some early protection, starting 12 days after the first dose, the peer reviewed results of a phase III trial have found.”

The vaccine was 52% effective in protecting against the virus 12 days after the first dose, and 95% seven days after the second dose.

Canada has contracted for millions of doses of vaccine from various pharmaceutical firms and more is expected shortly.

But a significant number of Canadians will have to wait to get vaccinated due to the enormous size of the country and small population, with pockets of people living in remote areas.

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