By ERIC LEVENSON
A critical care nurse was the first person in New York and among the first people in the United States to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York City, was administered the vaccine during a live video event at about 9:20 a.m. ET Monday. Dr. Michelle Chester, the corporate director of employee health services at Northwell Health, delivered the shot.
“She has a good touch, and it didn’t feel any different than taking any other vaccine,” Lindsay said immediately afterward.
“I’m feeling well. I would like to thank all the frontline workers, all my colleagues who have been doing a yeoman’s job to fight this pandemic all over the world,” she 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.”
Chester said the vaccine kit to administer the shot “worked perfectly.” Lindsay and Chester, both Black women, were flanked on stage by Michael Dowling, the president and CEO of Northwell Health, who noted the regional hospital system has seen over 100,000 patients with COVID-19.
Though it lasted just seconds, the shot represents a pivotal moment in history: a symbol of scientific speed and rigor; of the crushing burden borne by health care workers; of New York’s journey from its dark days as the epicenter of the pandemic; and – with two Black women front and center – of the renewed focus on issues of race and gender.
The vaccine is of course more than just symbolism. With the shot, and a second dose in 21 days, Lindsay will be able to more safely visit family, friends, colleagues and patients. Soon, so too will millions of Americans.
“This is a special moment, a special day,” Dowling said. “This is what everybody has been waiting for.”
Helen Cordova, an intensive care unit nurse, on Monday became one of the first people in California to receive a vaccine, according to a tweet from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Newsom joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for the event at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. Four hospitals received a total of 33,150 doses on the first day, Newsom said.
States beginning vaccines
People in a handful of other countries, including the United Kingdom, have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after their governments approved its use earlier. In addition, 21,720 people already received this vaccine as part of the Phase 3 trials that tested its efficacy. (Of those, there were only eight COVID-19 cases, compared to 162 cases among those who received a placebo.)
Still, Lindsay is among the first to get a shot of the vaccine now that the FDA approved it for emergency use and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the OK for it be administered to people 16 and older.
The first batch of the vaccine was shipped out from a Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan, on Sunday headed for over 600 sites across all 50 states. The first deliveries arrived to the University of Michigan, George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and more locations on Monday morning.
State and local authorities make their own decisions on who gets vaccinated and when. The CDC has recommended that frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the vaccine first.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he may be vaccinated in the next week or so.
“As soon as my turn comes up, which likely will be very soon, I’m going to be available to get vaccinated publicly so that people can see that I feel strongly that this is something we should do, and hopefully that will encourage many more people to get vaccinated,” he told MSNBC.
To be fully effective, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is given as two shots administered 21 days apart. A two-dose regimen of the vaccine has an efficacy of 95% in people ages 16 and older, though FDA briefing documents also note that the vaccine appears to provide “some protection” against COVID-19 after just one dose.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar plans to see some frontline health care workers get vaccinated at George Washington Hospital, he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on Today.
“If you are recommended to get it and it’s available for you, oh, please do get it. Protect yourself and protect those around you. Please get the vaccine,” Azar said.
The arrival of the vaccine comes at a critical time. The U.S. reported over 109,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday, the highest number in the pandemic and the 12th consecutive day that more than 100,000 people have been hospitalized because of the deadly virus.