Major milestone: First shipment of coronavirus vaccines arrives in Washington

The first shipment of coronavirus vaccines has arrived in Washington, marking a huge milestone in the fight to end the pandemic. 

Almost 4,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine arrived at UW Medicine Monday morning. Those doses will be distributed among the hospital system's four campuses starting Tuesday. Swedish is also expected to be among the first hospital systems to receive the shots.  

The initial doses in Washington state will go to health workers and people in long-term care facilities, the governor said, but it will be months before it is available to much of the broader population.

Inslee said the state is waiting for guidance from federal officials before decisions are made about how to distribute the vaccine beyond the initial groups.

RELATED: Healthcare systems ready to vaccinate, but some people still hesitant

The Department of Health has said the state expects to get about 62,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine initially. The state has about 7.5 million residents.

Washington expects to receive about 180,000 doses of another vaccine by Moderna by the end of December if it is approved for use.

Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health, said the initial virus doses will go to 40 facilities in 29 counties around the state.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was in Washington in January. The state also saw the nation’s first deadly outbreak at a nursing home in Kirkland. Since the start of the pandemic there have been about 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington and more than 2,800 deaths.

The injections begin an effort to try to beat back the coronavirus — a day of hope amid grief as the nation’s death roll nears a staggering 300,000. How well initial vaccinations go will help reassure a wary public when it’s their turn sometime next year.