The largest vaccination drive in American history began on Monday as a critical-care nurse became the first person in the US to be administered the Covid-19 vaccine, providing a glimmer of hope as the country nears the grim milestone of reporting 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 on Monday.
“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,” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said just before Lindsay was administered the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Lindsay said she feels “hopeful” and “relieved”.
“I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said adding that she wants to instil 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 (FDA) 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 Pfitzer 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 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 receive the vaccine on priority.
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 who are 16 years 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.
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