Bogotá led the charge early Thursday morning as healthcare workers waited for their turn for one dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, followed by similar scenes in the country’s second-largest city Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena and Bucaramanga.

The vaccination roll-out came a day after the official launch of the National Vaccine Program with 18 doses administered in two coastal cities: Monteria and Sincelejo.

With 50,000 doses as part of an initial shipment from the U.S pharmaceutical, Bogotá received 12,582 to begin protecting doctors and nurses before inoculating up to five million residents of the capital this year. “Thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for everything you have done, and what a pleasure to start today protecting you just as you have protected us all this year,” said Bogotá Mayor Claudia López. Minister of Health Fernando Ruíz and Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez accompanied the launch in Bogotá at the Kennedy Hospital. “Today, is a very important and very symbolic day that begins in a public hospital and one truly emblematic in the city,” said Minister Ruíz, before heading to the private medical foundation Santa Fe.

Intensive nurse Claudia Benavides was the first to be inoculated on Thursday shortly after turning up for her shift. “The vaccine is a great hope, it offers long-term protection for all, so I hope we reach a possible end to this pandemic,” she said. Silvia Gélvez, an ER doctor at the Colombia Clinic, also got her jab and reminded fellow citizens to trust in vaccines. “You have to believe in science, at this time we have no other options; so roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated!” she said.

President Iván Duque presided over the first vaccines in Barranquilla where he confirmed the arrival of 192,000 doses from China’s Sinovac lab over the weekend, as well as another batch of 50,000 doses from Pfizer BioNTech. In Cali, the third-largest city in the country, the start of vaccinations was postponed a few hours so that Minister of Justice Wilson Ruiz could be present on behalf of the national government.