BARRIE, ONT. -- Residents of Victoria Village Manor in Barrie are among the first in long-term care homes to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pilot immunization program in Simcoe Muskoka started on Monday with 80-year-old Pat Sinclair becoming the region's first long-term care resident to be immunized.

Sinclair, a former nurse, said she hopes being vaccinated gives her family a sense of relief. "I'm thrilled to be able to do this. I'm hoping it gives me and my family that feeling of we're okay, we're going to be okay. We'll get through this," she said.

"This will be a game-changer for long-term care and congregate settings. It will level the playing field," said Bill Krever, Victoria Village president and CEO. "As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in this region, the availability of this vaccine to our residents couldn't have come at a better time."

There were 111 residents at the Barrie facility and 67 residents at Oak Terrace Long-Term Care Home in Orillia vaccinated on Monday.

"We are hoping everyone who opts for the vaccine within our long-term care and retirement home communities to have received it over the next two weeks," said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

So far, more than 8,100 doses of the vaccine have been given to residents of seniors' homes, essential caregivers, and prioritized hospital workers across the region.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre's president and CEO Janice Skot said that as cases surge, and given the limited supply of doses, the priority is to vaccinate as many high-risk people as possible. "By focusing on the most vulnerable individuals and those most at risk, we will save lives."