An intensive-care unit nurse in New York is among the first Americans to receive an authorised coronavirus vaccine, as the US moves to distribute millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot just days after it was approved.
Sandra Lindsay was injected with the vaccine shortly after 9am on Monday live on camera, hours after the first doses arrived at hospitals across the country.
The inoculation marks the starting point for what will be a months-long process aimed at immunising enough Americans to slow the spread of the disease, which has now killed more than 290,000 people.
“It’s been dark,” said Ms Lindsay, reflecting on the last year as a nurse on the frontline of the pandemic fight. “Dark, painful. So today I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
She said she felt confident about the safety of the vaccine. “I trust the science,” she said. “So I had no hesitation when I was asked if I would take the vaccine.”
Yves Duroseau, the chair of the emergency medical department at Lenox Hill Hospital, who also received the vaccine on Monday, said that the pandemic had taken a personal toll on him: he lost an uncle to Covid-19, and another family member was currently in hospital with the virus.
“This is a very important day,” he said. “This is a very hopeful day.”
“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” said Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, as he watched Ms Lindsay’s injection over video link. “It’s the beginning of the last chapter of the book, but now we just have to do it.”
Data from the Covid Tracking Project show that 187,000 people tested positive for the disease in the US on Sunday, and 1,482 died. The US has registered more than 16m cases since the pandemic began, the highest in the world by far.
Healthcare workers and people in care homes are set to receive the first doses of the vaccine, with 3m injections planned in the first week.
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Government officials say they expect about 40m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will be distributed by the end of the year — enough to vaccinate 20m people — though this will depend on whether the US Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead to Moderna’s Covid-19 jab later this week.
The FDA approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine late on Friday, after which workers at Pfizer’s plants in Michigan and Wisconsin spent the weekend making and shipping the initial batch of doses.
These were being received at 145 sites on Monday morning, and being sent to a further 425 on Tuesday and 66 on Wednesday. Almost all of the sites are large hospitals with the facilities to keep the vaccine at minus 70C.
All doses made by the end of the year are set to go to people seen as having the highest risk of being exposed to the virus, either in a healthcare setting or in a long-term care facility.
Donald Trump, the US president, said on Sunday night he was not scheduled to receive a shot, and that senior White House officials would receive it “somewhat later in the program”, despite rules allowing senior government figures to have priority access.