MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine have officially been administered. About 3,000 doses of the vaccine arrived Monday at the Twin Cities hospital in refrigerated boxes.

At the Minneapolis VA hospital, the first to get the shot was Thera Witte, a nurse who has worked at the hospital for 10 years. It was administered by Nurse Jamie Charles. Tuesday was the first day they had met. Witte said her being the first was “pure luck.”

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“I just happened to have the first appointment,” she said. “I got cheers from my colleagues this morning.”

Signing up for the vaccine was an easy decision for Witte. She’s worked in the COVID-19 ward since the beginning.

“When we had our first veteran pass away it was kind of an emotional moment for all of our staff,” Witte said.

On that day, and many like it, visitors were not allowed inside the hospital. So nurses held that veteran’s hand, while their family sat here in the parking lot and said their goodbyes over video.

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The process to give the shot was simple. The logistics to make it happen were not. Pfizers vaccine comes in two doses, according Dr. Rajal Mody of the Minneapolis VA Vaccination Initiative Team.

“As everyone gets their first dose today and before they leave their appointment, they’ll be getting an appointment for their second dose which occurs 17-21 days later,” Mody said.

Meanwhile, Cass Lake Indian Health Service says they started vaccinating health care staff on Monday.

A steady supply of doses is expected to trickle into Minnesota in the coming weeks. North Memorial Health Hospital is expected to get its first batch Tuesday, with nearly 1,000 doses in a single box. The Robbinsdale hospital is set to receive four more boxes in the next couple of weeks.

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Pfizer is shipping the vaccine in coolers with dry ice and GPS trackers that monitor the temperature. Once at North Memorial, the doses will be kept in an ultra-cold storage freezer at minus-98.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beginning next Monday, pharmacies will also play a major role in administering the vaccine. CVS is hiring thousands of pharmacists, nurses and technicians to help. Walgreens will provide shots to about 35,000 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

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Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease director for the Minnesota Department of Health, says the average Minnesotan will have to wait several months before they can get vaccinated. All the current COVID-19 vaccines require two doses spaced roughly a month apart.

Christiane Cordero