New York City intensive care unit nurse on Monday became the first person in the United States to receive a coronavirus vaccine, calling it a sign that “healing is coming,” as the nation’s COVID-19 death toll crossed a staggering 300,000 lives lost.
Sandra Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest COVID-19 patients for months, was inoculated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, receiving applause on a live stream with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine,” Lindsay said. “I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. “I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe,” she added.
“This is what heroes look like,” Cuomo wrote in the caption of a photo of Lindsay, wearing a mask and staring resolutely ahead, that he posted on Twitter.
Similar scenes played out at select hospitals in other cities, including Los Angeles, where California Governor Gavin Newsom stood by and applauded as a Kaiser Permanente emergency room nurse rolled up her sleeve for a needle jab on live television.
“It’s been an incredible morning. It’s historic,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane after he received a shot at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where he has led some of the clinical trials that found the vaccine 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 illness.
The made-for-TV events, marking the first U.S. coronavirus immunizations outside of clinical trials, were part of a broad campaign by public health authorities and political leaders to reassure Americans of the vaccine’s safety.
Developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, the vaccine, given as two doses three weeks apart, won U.S. emergency-use authorization on Friday.
By day’s end on Monday, vaccine shipments had made it to nearly all of the 145 U.S. distribution sites pre-selected to receive the initial batch of doses, with a number of major hospital systems launching immunizations immediately.
The first U.S. vaccine shipments departed from Pfizer’s facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday, packed into trucks with dry-ice to maintain the precious cargo at the required sub-Arctic temperature. They were transported to UPS and FedEx planes waiting at air fields in Lansing and Grand Rapids and flown to cargo hubs in Louisville and Memphis, kicking off a national immunization endeavor of unprecedented complexity.
From Kentucky and Tennessee, the shipments were loaded onto planes and trucks to carry them to the first 145 of 636 vaccine-staging areas across the country. Second and third waves of vaccine shipments were due to go out to the remaining sites on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“This is the most difficult vaccine rollout in history,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News on Monday.
Governors in 26 states and territories were planning to use the National Guard to assist with vaccine distribution, ranging from breaking down shipments into smaller packages to helping with transport, the Guard said on Monday.