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The COVID-19 vaccine began to be rolled out across the US on Monday, as images spread of frontline workers getting the first shots of the nation's greatest hope to defeat a runaway virus that has killed 300,000 people and fundamentally altered nearly every aspect of society.
The first to receive the vaccine was Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, where thousands died in the earliest weeks of the pandemic.
She was vaccinated live during a press conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor's office said Lindsay was the first person in the US to get vaccinated, besides those who participated in the vaccine's clinical trial.
"I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history," said Lindsay shortly after she received the injection, which received FDA approval on Friday night. "I feel hopeful today."
The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine left Pfizer's facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday morning, to be delivered to all 50 states on Monday.
The FDA authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine following an overwhelming 17–4 vote of confidence from an advisory panel of independent experts.
The vaccine, which will first be distributed to healthcare workers and residents of assisted living facilities, arrives at a pivotal moment in the pandemic. An enormous deadly surge has filled intensive care beds in hospitals around the country, with numbers skyrocketing in recent weeks (particularly since Thanksgiving) and Christmas just around the corner.
Further lockdowns are expected around the country to try to limit the spread of the virus. Small businesses are already struggling to survive and over 10 million are people unemployed, with a vaccine the best bet to return to any sense of normalcy.
"I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe, we're in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part to put an end to the pandemic and not give up so soon," said Lindsay, the Queens nurse.
The live vaccinations on Monday were similar to the filming last week of a 90-year-old woman in the UK who becoming the first person there to receive the same vaccine, as public health authorities try to fight disinformation about the vaccine.
Photos and videos emerged of the vaccine arriving in boxes to different hospitals.
Hospitals and medical centers posted images of their healthcare workers getting their first injections, often with local politicians looking on.
A southeast Louisiana nurse who works at Ochsner Health, the state's largest hospital system, became the first to get the vaccine in that state on Monday morning as Gov. John Bel Edwards looked on, NOLA.com reported.
In Florida, 31-year-old nurse Vanessa Arroyo, who works at the COVID unit at Tampa General Hospital, became the state's first vaccination.
In California, intensive care nurse Helen Cordova from Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles, became one of the state's first to get the injection.
ICU nurse Sarah Kiehl, one the first in Kansas City to get the vaccine, told reporters outside the Truman Medical Center that the vaccine gives her "a little bit of hope, a little bit of light, a little bit of chance that we might see some healing and people truly getting better and potentially tackling this virus.”
Lindsay, the New York healthcare worker, noted that as a nurse she trusts and believes in science. "What I don't trust is if I contract COVID, I don't know how it will impact me or those I will come in contact with," she said. "So I encourage everyone to take the vaccine."
Moments after Lindsay received the injection, the president tweeted: "first vaccine administered. Congratulations USA!"
New York City became the global epicenter of the virus in March and April, with hospitals struggling to cope with the thousands of people sick and dying of the virus.
"It was a modern-day battlefield," said Cuomo, addressing Lindsay and her colleagues at Northwell Health, the state's largest healthcare system, which has cared for over 100,000 COVID-19 patients so far.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we still need to wear our masks and social-distance," said Lindsay.