VANCOUVER -- In a bid to combat rapid spread of COVID-19 variants, all adults living and working in Whistler are now eligible for the vaccine.

People began rolling up their sleeves at a clinic inside the Whistler Conference Centre on Monday.

“Yesterday, I saw it on Facebook about 20 or 30 minutes before the website went live,” said local Paul Hothersall, who quickly registered online for one of the first appointments.

“It was great. It’s Whistler, it’s a ski resort. We’re used to lining up,” he added after getting the shot, a process that took about 15 minutes.

Vancouver Coastal Health has said Whistler and surrounding communities have the highest infection rates in the province right now, with more contagious variants being a key factor in rapid transmission.

“We’ve been worried with Whistler being in the media so much with all the outbreaks,” said Capri Doucette, a public health nurse with VCH. “In two weeks it’ll be over, hopefully. We’ll have everybody done and just move on.”

Adults 18-54 can register for an appointment if they meet the eligibility requirements, which include proof of permanent residency in Whistler, or a recent paystub confirming Whistler employment for those who work in the community but reside elsewhere.

“It does definitely give me some hope,” said Brandon Smith, who booked an appointment for Wednesday. “They’ve been saying for a while that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel — but it’s been a long tunnel.”

Adults 55-64 can receive the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine at a local pharmacy now by booking an appointment in advance.

And those over 65 have already been able to register for a dose with appointments beginning Thursday.

It does take about two weeks for the first dose of the vaccine to take effect and provide some protection from illness.

And even after that time period has passed, people living and working in the community will still be expected to abide by all public health orders issued by the province and local health authority.

Mayor Jack Crompton wants to remind tourists that the community will still not be open for business as usual, even once most adults in Whistler will have been vaccinated.

“No. Stay home. Stay close to home. This is not the time to travel. I think Dr. (Bonnie) Henry has made that perfectly clear,” he said. “And we need to stay the line and do our part to flatten the curve and to get back to life as we love it.”

With the vaccination rollout now underway in his community, Crompton is looking forward to a time when Whistler can once again be a thriving tourist destination.

“This allows us to think about a summer that will be safer than last,” he said, encouraging visitors to stay away until the Provincial Health Officer gives the all clear to move freely about the province.