Sandra Lindsay, a New York City intensive care unit nurse on Monday became the first person in the United States to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest COVID-19 patients for months said she felt ‘healing is coming,’ as the death toll from Covid-19 reached the 300,000 mark.

Lindsay, was inoculated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early epicentre of the country’s coronavirus 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.

“This is what heroes look like,” Cuomo wrote in the caption of a photo of Lindsay, wearing a mask and staring resolutely ahead, that he posted on Twitter.

Similar scenes played out at select hospitals in other cities, including Los Angeles, where California Governor Gavin Newsom applauded as a Kaiser Permanente emergency room nurse rolled up her sleeve for a needle jab on live television.

“It’s been an incredible morning. It’s historic,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane after he received a shot at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where he has led some of the clinical trials that found the vaccine 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 illness.

The made-for-TV events, the first US coronavirus immunisations outside of clinical trials were part of a broad campaign by public health authorities and political leaders to reassure Americans of the vaccine’s safety as they launched a national immunisation program of unprecedented scope.

Developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, the vaccine, given as two doses three weeks apart, won US emergency-use authorization on Friday.

By day’s end on Monday, vaccine shipments had made it to nearly all of the 145 US distribution sites pre-selected to receive the initial batch of doses, with a number of major hospital systems launching immunizations immediately.

“This is a race against time,” said Greg Adams, chairman and CEO of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.

US officials said no major hiccups were reported. US Army General Gustave Perna said on a call with reporters that severe storms forecast this week could potentially hamper rounds of shipments to another 491 locations.

The vaccine’s arrival provided hope as the country passed 300,000 lives lost. Mounting COVID-19 hospitalizations, a record 1,09,000 patients reported on Monday alone have strained healthcare systems to the breaking point, and more than 16 million US coronavirus cases have been recorded to date.

Over the past seven days, the United States has averaged 2,462 deaths a day, the highest since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters count.

LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE

The process of shipping the first 2.9 million doses of vaccine began on Sunday, 11 months after the United States documented its first case of COVID-19.

The initial doses have been earmarked for healthcare professionals and nursing home residents, with essential workers, elderly people and individuals with chronic health conditions next in line.

As part of a national security protocol aimed at ensuring continuity of government in the event of an emergency, senior leaders in the executive branch, Congress and judiciary were also being offered early vaccines.

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller got his on Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, apparently the first Cabinet-level official inoculated.

It will take months before vaccines become widely available to the public at large, and health officials have warned Americans to remain diligent about social distancing and the wearing of face masks to curb virus transmissions.

US Operation Warp Speed top adviser Moncef Slaoui said the plan is to have about 40 million vaccine doses, enough for 20 million people distributed by year’s end.

That would include vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna Inc. An outside US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to review the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, with emergency use expected to be granted shortly thereafter.

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