KITCHENER -- Residents at three long-term care homes in Waterloo Region were the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to a new mobile clinic program.

According to a news release issued on Tuesday morning, the clinic is part of the first phase to distribute the vaccine in the region.

"Getting as many residents, staff and family caregivers vaccinated as soon as possible is peopleCare’s most urgent priority," said Jenn Killing, peopleCare's VP of quality, research and strategic partnerships. "We thank our partners at the Region of Waterloo and Waterloo Region Public Health for working hand-in-hand with our team to immunize our residents, in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by people who care about and for them."

The first phase prioritizes the vaccination of health-care workers, essential caregivers, residents of long-term care and retirement homes, First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations, the region said in the news release.

"We are excited to launch the mobile clinic program, which is a vital step to ensuring more people in our community receive the COVID-19 immunization," said Dept. Chief Shirley Hilton, the head of the region's COVID-19 vaccine task force, in a statement.

"Mobile clinics will be able to reach long-term care homes quickly and safely to ensure the health and wellness of residents and staff."

A total of 67 residents at Golden Years Long-Term Care in Cambridge were some of the first to get their vaccines on Tuesday.

The next phase will include vaccinations at other congregate settings and adults over 70. The broader community can expect to start getting vaccines in the summer as part of phase three.

The news release said that the cold storage restrictions on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were lifted last week, meaning that officials can give doses outside of Grand River Hospital.

Though mobile clinics are beginning, the region says the vaccination clinic at Grand River Hospital will continue.

As of 5 p.m. on Jan. 11, more than 7,400 people in the region had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the region's website shows. The vaccination totals are updated Monday to Friday in the early afternoon.

The vaccination clinic's launch comes as a Kitchener long-term care begins piloting rapid point-of-care antigen testing in an effort to get results in about 15 minutes.

More than 50 staff at PeopleCare A. R. Goudie were involved in the voluntary pilot. The volunteers get swabbed twice, with the rapid test read and recorded on site and the standard test being sent to a lab for testing. The data is then compared and send to the ministry.