The biggest vaccination drive in American history got underway on Monday with a critical care nurse in New York becoming the first person in the US to be vaccinated for COVID-19, providing a glimmer of hope as the country nears the grim milestone of nearly 300,000 coronavirus deaths.
Frontline nurse Sandra Lindsay was administered the shot developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, in Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens Monday.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said the pandemic has been ‘horrific’.
“It was a modern-day battlefield and that's why the word heroes is so appreciate for what you did. The vaccine is the weapon that will end the war. It is the beginning of the last chapter of the book,” Cuomo said just before Lindsay was given the vaccination.
Cuomo clapped as he watched Lindsay take the vaccination shot.
Lindsay said she feels “hopeful” and “relieved” and healing is coming.
“I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said adding that she wants to instill confidence in the public that the vaccine is safe.
She stressed that while there is light at the end of the tunnel, people still need to continue to wear their masks, maintain social distance and encouraged everyone to take the vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration has allowed the emergency authorisation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday as the death toll in the US approaches 300,000.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he would be among those getting a vaccine.
"People will believe much more in the vaccine if the CEO is getting vaccinated," he said Monday on CNN.
The first trucks carrying the COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the US pulled out of a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan on Sunday, en route to 636 predetermined locations, amid a botched government response that has made the US the worst-hit country in the world.
With the winter holidays still ahead, experts warn that the pandemic could continue to get worse before the larger public receives the vaccination.
State and local authorities make their own decisions on who gets vaccinated and when. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the vaccine first.
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 per cent in people ages 16 and older, though the FDA briefing documents also note that the vaccine appears to provide "some protection" against COVID-19 after just one dose.
Despite the positive news on the vaccine front, the US is still battling overcrowded hospitals and record-breaking daily case count as the nation nears another sad milestone, 300,000 deaths.
As of December 13, more than 16 million cases have been confirmed in the US.