By Jonathan Allen and Gabriella Borter
An intensive care unit nurse became the first person in the United States to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, calling it a sign that “healing is coming,” as the U.S. coronavirus death toll crossed a staggering 300,000 lives lost.
Sandra Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest COVID-19 patients for months, was given the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, receiving applause on a livestream 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.
Cuomo tweeted a picture of Lindsay, wearing a mask and staring resolutely ahead, as a doctor injected her in the arm, and said she was the first American to get vaccinated.
“This is what heroes look like,” Cuomo wrote.
Minutes after Lindsay received the injection, President Donald Trump tweeted: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!”
Long Island Jewish Medical Center, operated by New York’s largest healthcare system, Northwell Health, was one of many select hospitals across the United States that was administering the country’s first inoculations of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials on Monday.
The vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, won an emergency use authorization from federal regulators on Friday after it was found to be 95% effective in preventing illness in a large clinical trial.
Its arrival provided some welcome relief as the country passed the grim milestone of 300,000 lives lost on Monday, with COVID-19 hospitalizations at record levels. More than 16 million U.S. coronavirus cases have been recorded to date.
The United States is reporting 2,462 deaths per day on a 7-day average, the highest since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters count.
The first 2.9 million doses of the vaccine began to be shipped to distribution centers around the country on Sunday, just 11 months after the United States documented its first case of COVID-19.
“It’s been an incredible morning. It’s historic,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane, speaking over a livestream video on Monday after becoming one of the first Louisiana residents to receive the vaccine at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where he led some of the clinical trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
Healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be first to get the two-dose vaccine regimen given three weeks apart. Next will be essential workers, as determined by individual states, and elderly people with underlying health conditions.
U.S. top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC on Monday that Americans with no heightened risk factors could expect to get vaccinated “by the end of March, the beginning of April.”
“Maybe by the end of late spring…So that by the time we get into the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief,” Fauci said.