In this Dec. 3, 2020, file photo, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks after touring the DCU Center as it gears up to be used as a COVID-19 field hospital for the second time in Worcester, Massachusetts. Credit: Nancy Lane / The Boston Herald via AP

BOSTON — After months of anticipation, the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have begun trickling into Massachusetts, although Gov. Charlie Baker and state health officials cautioned Tuesday that it will be some months more before vaccines are available to the general public.

Four hospitals received about 6,000 doses on Monday.

The state expects the federal government to ship more than 53,000 doses to 17 hospitals statewide, Baker said Tuesday. Among those receiving the first doses are health care workers providing coronavirus care.

It’s all part of the expected 300,000 first doses that should arrive in the state before the end of December. The doses are delivered directly from the government to hospitals.

Even though the state is beginning to roll out vaccine shots, Massachusetts residents still face months of peril from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Baker cautioned.

Baker pleaded with residents to celebrate upcoming holidays with members of their immediate household and resist the temptation to gather with wider circles of friends and family members.

He pointed to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Ten days before Thanksgiving, the state was averaging about 2,500 new cases per day. Nearly two weeks after the holiday, new cases nearly doubled to about 4,800 per day, according to Baker.

The surge has put a strain on the state’s health care system, he said.

“A few more months of masks and distancing and COVID precautions and not letting our guard down is right there in front of us and is the right thing to do,” Baker said. “We have a chance here to play offense, but it’s critically important for all of us to do the things we need to do to get from here to there.”

Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association President Steve Walsh said health care workers have stepped up to the challenge during a difficult year and are counting on their neighbors to make safe choices around the winter holiday.

“Keeping celebrations small is the greatest gift you can give our healthcare professionals this year,” Walsh said.

Story by Steve LeBlanc and Collin Binkley.

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