VICTORIA -- Monday was momentous day for Joan and Don Hepburn. Not only was it the couple’s 69th wedding anniversary, but the two 90-year-olds also got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.

“We’re very relieved to be getting the vaccine, were so happy,” said Joan. “It certainly is a very different anniversary, but one that we're very grateful for.”

Monday was the first day that members of the general population across the province could get a jab in the arm.

Most of those getting vaccines Monday were 90 and older, but at some clinics it included seniors in their late 80s.

A total of 16 mass vaccination clinics on Vancouver Island opened their doors on Monday, including five locations in Greater Victoria.

In Greater Victoria, seniors were getting shots at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, Eagle Ridge arena in Langford, Seaparc Leisure Centre in Sooke, the McKinnon Gym at UVic and at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.

Five more clinics across the ssland will be opening before the end of March.

The province also announced Monday that it will be using the 60,000 AstraZeneca doses its received to immiunize against outbreaks and protect workers in food processing and agricultural plants.

“We are focusing on those high-risk worksites that we have identified throughout this pandemic, the ones where we see transmission,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Meanwhile, phone bookings have been bumped up this week, allowing those 80 through 84 years old to schedule their first vaccine doses through the week. 

The age group is also expected to get their shot earlier than initially planned, perhaps starting as early as next week. The accelerated timeline is something that all ages will hopefully benefit from, said Henry.

“This has been our way to try and ramp it up in a way that’s been effective,” said Henry. “And yes, we will be ramping up and increasing the other age groups as soon as we are able to.”