Relief and Hope as NYC Nursing Official Is First Vaccinated in Covid Fight

Nurse Annabelle Jimenez, left, congratulates nurse Sandra Lindsay after she is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday at the Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool)

MANHATTAN (CN) — The first dose of a vaccine for Covid-19 was administered Monday morning to a front-line medical worker on Long Island.

Sandra Lindsay, the director of critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, was the first person to receive the vaccine outside of a clinical trial. 

After receiving the shot, Lindsay said she was feeling well and added that she is hopeful and relieved. “I hope this marks the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said. “I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We are in a pandemic, and we all need to do our part.”

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech, was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening. Pfizer now says it is ready to deliver hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021.

The news comes just as cases of Covid-19 have increased dramatically. Worldwide, more than 72 million cases have been reported, and about 1.6 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, 16.2 million cases have been reported while just shy of 300,000 Americans have died.

New York state was initially the worst hit among all the states, and it has since seen 35,000 of its citizens die from the virus. 

While Covid-19 has since sunk its teeth deeply into other states, New York remains hard-hit. Four of the five boroughs of New York City are in the top 10 counties nationwide with the most deaths, representing more than 23,000 in total. Staten Island has reportedly suffered 1,200 deaths.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo demonstrates the shipping materials for the Pfizer vaccine at a press conference last week. (Image via Courthouse News)

“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday morning. “It’s beginning of the last chapter of the book. But now we just have to do it.”

Northwell CEO Michael Dowling, head of the company that owns Long Island Jewish Medical Center, issued a brief statement prior to Lindsay’s inoculation.

“Just because we are giving out the vaccine is no excuse for the public out there not to continue wearing masks, not to social distance,” Dowling said. “You have continue to comply with safety standards, even though the vaccine is going to be distributed over the next few months.”

Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CNBC on Monday morning that the company was negotiating with the Trump administration to provide an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine in the second quarter of 2021. Currently, more than 184,000 doses of the vaccine are shipping or have been shipped to sites across the country.

“First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” President Trump tweeted.

The White House had turned down an offer to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, stating it had ordered enough to vaccinate every American through the second quarter of next year.

Health care workers and the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes, will be prioritized to receive the vaccine, officials say. Most Americans will not be able to receive the vaccine until the spring.

For the vaccine to become effective, health experts say at least three out of every four Americans need to take it. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an estimated efficacy rate of 90%.

Cuomo, who has once again ordered indoor dining shuttered due to the third wave of coronavirus, noted it would be months for the vaccine to hit critical mass.

During a press conference last week, Cuomo noted the difficulty of shipping and storing the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine must be kept at 94 degrees below zero, and must be packed with dry ice. Boxes can be opened only twice a day for about 60 seconds each, and the vaccines must be administered with six hours once thawed before they spoil. “It’s not a short tunnel, but we know the way through this, and we just have to get there,” Cuomo told reporters last week. 

The vaccine already had been rolled out in the United Kingdom last week, with a 90-year-old wearing a “Merry Christmas” T-shirt receiving the shot. 

Two other vaccines are in the pipeline for approval: one from Moderna, which is reportedly 95% effective; and one from AstraZeneca, which has an efficacy of up to 90%. 

The FDA is scheduled to review Moderna’s vaccine next week.

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