Rebecca Penning was excited as she became one of the first Steele County residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

“I’m thankful we were able to get it on the first day,” said Penning, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room at Owatonna Hospital.

After receiving the first dose of the vaccine Monday afternoon, she said she physically felt the same as she did beforehand.

The first shipment of the vaccine arrived on Sunday for Allina Health staff in Owatonna and Faribault. More than 50 Owatonna Hospital staff received the first dose of the vaccine on Monday afternoon, with more to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday.

David Albrecht, president of Owatonna and District One hospitals, said about half the staff will receive the first dose of the vaccine this week and the remaining half will receive it next week, although it’s not mandatory for staff.

“We’re hoping most will,” he said.

Albrecht said he expects most staff who have face-to-face interactions with patients will receive the first dose by the end of next week. It takes about two to four weeks to build up immunity with the vaccine, he said.

A nurse at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis was the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota on Dec. 15 and 947 healthcare workers had been vaccinated by Dec. 18. The state anticipated about 46,800 doses from Pfizer to be shipped to Minnesota hospitals and clinics to begin administering this week. Minnesota is also expected to receive a second shipment of more than 33,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this week. Minnesota is expecting nearly 95,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine to be shipped now that it has been approved. CVS Health announced on Monday that it planned to vaccinate 63,000 long-term care residents and workers in Minnesota next week.

The Mayo Clinic Health System also began vaccinating its staff in southeastern Minnesota Monday. It plans to expand its vaccinations to all staff in the next two to three months and begin patient vaccinations for COVID-19 soon, according to its announcement Monday.

“We are so excited to see the hard work and devotion of our teams paying off and even more excited to see the vaccine coming to our friends, neighbors and colleagues as we hope for an end to this pandemic locally and worldwide,” said Robert Albright Jr., regional vice president for Mayo Clinic’s southeast Minnesota region.

Penning said she has been looking forward to receiving the vaccine. The thought of bringing home COVID-19 to her family has been in the back of her mind throughout the pandemic. She changes clothes before leaving for home to prevent cross-contamination and she’s been watching for symptoms at home while social distancing.

“We’ve been trying our best to keep our family pod really tight knit, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

She works overnights in the emergency room where there’s always the potential for her to be working with a patient who has COVID-19 or who is waiting to find out if they tested positive. Even with the vaccine, she’ll continue to wear personal protective equipment. She is required to wear a mask and eye protection at work and personal protective equipment has become “like second nature” to put on now, she said.

Albrecht said they’re hoping to get back to work on non-pandemic issues at the hospitals that have been put on hold.

“I hope this is the beginning of the end of all we’ve been through not only as a hospital, but a state, a country and a world,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.Reach Associate Editor Lisa Kaczke at 507-444-2371. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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