RED WING — Goodhue County Health and Human Services started vaccine clinics for emergency first responders Wednesday, Jan. 6, beginning with Red Wing Fire Department.

“I am very eager to continue to move forward to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” RWFD Chief Mike Warner said. The vaccine was voluntary for firefighters and paramedics.

Warner said the process was quick and painless.

"I did not have any pain," he said. "It felt just like a flu shot."

The county's “Vaccinator Teams” got their shots on New Year's Eve, according to a news release. Those public health workers are now administering the vaccine to others.

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Across the river in Pierce County, dozens of EMS and pharmacy workers got their first dose of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna last week.

It will be months before vaccines are widely available to the general public. Health departments ask residents to be patient while health care workers and long-term care facilities get the first doses of the limited amount of vaccine available.

"This is a moment for celebration and gratitude," according to Goodhue County HHS in an email Thursday. "However, we must have patience. It is going to take time to get to the point where we can throw away our masks and hug our neighbors again."

The county is administering vaccine based on the state health departments priority groups, starting with Phase 1A that includes emergency medical services. Other vaccine clinics this week were Zumbrota, Kenyon and Cannon Falls.

Health care workers and people associated with long-term care facilities, who are also part of the first priority phase, are being vaccinated by their hospital/clinic or an appointed pharmacy, according to a county news release Friday. As of Jan. 7, a total of 769 county residents had received at least a single dose of the vaccine.

Local vaccine information is available at co.goodhue.mn.us/COVID-19.

There were more than 300 active cases of COVID-19 in Goodhue County and 26 residents hospitalized with the disease as of Thursday, according to the county health department. There were 190 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths since the end of 2020.