TORONTO -- The Ontario government started administering its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine today, one day ahead of schedule.

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker, got the shot first at the University Health Network in Toronto along with four of her colleagues from the Rekai Centre, a long-term care facility in the city.

"Thank you very much," Quidangen said to a room of applauding onlookers following the vaccination. "I’m excited, because I’'m the first one to get the vaccine."

This marks the beginning of the first phase of the Ontario government’s immunization plan which will see health-care workers like Quidangen, as well as residents of long-term care homes and their caregivers, vaccinated first.

Half of the 6,000 doses received over the weekend will be administered this week in Toronto and Ottawa. The other half will be intentionally held back to give the same individuals a required second dose 21 days later.

From there, adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes and recipients of chronic home health-care will get doses of the vaccine next. 

The province previously said it expected to begin inoculations on Tuesday. However, retired Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said Friday that if the shipments arrived early, they would begin vaccinating earlier as a result.

The first shipment of vaccines touched down in Hamilton, Ont. on Sunday night. Premier Doug Ford was on hand for the arrival and watched as the first batch of vaccines were unloaded off the plane.

At a news conference Monday, Ford said the vaccines administered in Toronto were the first for the country, though it's unclear when Quebec, who also received some doses today, started administering their shots. 

"We were the first in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to administer this vaccine," he said.

"Make no mistake, there's a long road ahead of us. But what this represents is hope, and proof that this pandemic will come to an end."

An additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in Ontario later this month, according to Hillier. The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses -- allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people -- during the first three months of 2021.

The vaccine is expected to be more broadly available to the general public in April, the government has said previously, and will take six to nine months to inoculate the entire province. 

Ontario reported 1,940 news cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, as well as 23 more deaths. The new infections mark a jump from the 1,677 cases reported on Sunday.

With files from the Canadian Press.