The atmosphere at the Livermore Veterans Hospital was a celebratory one as staff members received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 18.

These frontline workers joined others in their field across Alameda County as the COVID-19 vaccines arrived this week.

The first phase started with the highest risk front-line hospital workers and paramedics who perform intubations.

Under the vaccine prioritization framework, next in line are staff and residents of nursing homes, said Dr. Kathleen Clanon, deputy health officer and medical director for Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. Clanon explained that the state expects this portion of the program to begin Dec. 28.

These early doses of COVID-19 vaccine come amid a surge of cases and hospitalization rates regionally and across the state, that health experts have described as the worst they have seen to date.