SUDBURY -- Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) said receiving the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines for the region is "welcome news, especially after the tragic outcomes experienced by our communities in recent days."

As part of Ontario's Phase 1 of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan, residents in long-term care and high-risk retirement settings along with First Nations elders are being prioritized.

"These groups are at high risk of exposure, severe illness and outcomes and will get their vaccine as soon as possible," said the health unit.

Dr. Lianne Catton, the medical officer of health for the health unit, asks for patience as the vaccine distribution rolls out across the province.

"Everyone is a priority and will receive a vaccine if they are eligible and want one," Catton said. "However, we will not be able to immunize everyone at the same time, and we will need to stay positive and be patient."

Vaccine distribution requires collaboration among public health, institutions and communities.

"The PHU COVID-19 vaccination playbook is currently being finalized and includes ongoing collaboration with partners across sectors and communities to support and implement this critical next step in the response to the pandemic," Catton said. "All decisions made about distribution of the vaccine follow Ontario’s Ethical Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution."

The health unit has been working with Weeneebayko and Area Health Authority, ORNGE, the First Nation Inuit Health Branch, First Nation communities and others to conduct Operation Remote Immunity in the James and Hudson Bay region. Last week, a group of Moosonee elders and a congregate living setting received the vaccine.

She said the vaccine is another way to help stop the spread of the disease but reminds everyone to continue staying home as much as possible and follow public health measures.

"It is giving hope that we will see an end to the pandemic and be able to return to some normalcy," said Catton.

This comes amidst a deadly COVID outbreak that is ravaging a long-term care home in Kapuskasing, where two people have died since Thursday. The number of infections connected to the Extendicare Kapuskasing outbreak has reached 30.

As of Tuesday morning, the Cochrane District had 50 active cases of the disease and there have been 11 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Since Christmas Eve, the Cochrane District has had 100 new cases and 59 cases have been resolved, including the two recent deaths.