U.S. administers first shots of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, launching a historic rollout

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Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester from Northwell Health at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, U.S., December 14, 2020.

Mark Lennihan | Reuters

The United States on Monday administered the first shots of Pfizer‘s Covid-19 vaccine to health-care workers, marking a pivotal moment in the country’s long march to bring the virus under control.

The vaccine comes at an urgent time, with the U.S. nearing 300,000 total Covid-19 deaths and top health officials warning that daily new deaths might not slow for months, even with a vaccine.

With limited doses available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advices states prioritize distribution to frontline health-care workers and long-term care residents, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

The swift rollout of the vaccine promises to be a monumental logistical challenge. The federal government has partnered with UPSFedExMcKessonCVSWalgreens, among others, to help distribute the vaccine and actually administer it. But state officials have warned that the so-called last-mile delivery of the vaccine will be the most challenging, and local officials are largely responsible for that effort. State officials have repeatedly called on the federal government to provide more funding to hasten the effort.

UPS employees move one of two shipping containers containing the first shipments of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on a ramp at UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday, December 13, 2020.

Michael Clevenger | Getty Images

“There is not one part of this country that’s not being touched today through Wednesday,” Gen. Gustave Perna, who’s in charge of logistics for Operation Warp Speed, said Monday at a briefing. “It is not a one-and-done delivery. It is a consistent flow of ordering, preparation and delivery.”

With distribution challenges ahead and the outbreak still raging, officials and health-care workers took time Monday to celebrate the arrival of the vaccine, and the hope it represents. Across the country, images flowed in of health-care workers receiving their first shots and the first doses arriving at more than one hundred distribution sites.

New York

Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York City, was among the first Americans to be vaccinated against the disease shortly after 9 a.m. ET.

“I am very proud to be in this position, to promote public confidence in the safety of the vaccine. I encourage everyone to take the vaccine,” she said at a press conference with Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “This should be significant for all of us as it signifies hope, healing, restoration of public health and public safety.”

At the event, Cuomo thanked health-care workers for serving on the frontline of what he called a “modern-day battlefield.”

“This vaccine is exciting, because I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” he said. “It’s the beginning of the last chapter of the book, but now we just have to do it. Vaccine doesn’t work if it’s in the vial, right?”

Florida

Nearly 100,000 doses of the vaccine will arrive Monday at five large regional hospitals in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news briefing at Tampa General Hospital.

DeSantis said he was at Tampa General’s loading dock to sign for and receive the first shipment of doses. He later introduced Vanessa Arroyo, 31, a nurse at Tampa General, who was the first in Florida to receive the vaccine, according to DeSantis.

Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, compared it to the first lunar landing to convey his excitement.

“From a health-care perspective, this is our magic Neil Armstrong moment,” Lockwood said, adding that people should continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, and avoid large crowds.

Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear watches as Dr. Jason Smith receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the University of Louisville Hospital on December 14, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jon Cherry | Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear marked the historic day at the University of Louisville, where Dr. Jason Smith, the chief medical officer at University of Louisville Health became the first person in Kentucky to receive the vaccine.

“I fully believe this is a safe and effective vaccine,” Smith said before rolling up his sleeve. “I volunteered to go first because of that.”

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Connecticut

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont welcomed nearly 2,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to Hartford Hospital Monday morning, where Dr. Ajay Kumar, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Hartford HealthCare, received the first dose.

“This is the dawn of a new day. This is a time for hope. This is a historic moment,” Jeffrey Flaks, president and chief executive officer of Hartford HealthCare, said at a news briefing. “Our physicians have described this in many ways for our country, comparable to putting a man on the moon.”

Hartford Healthcare officials said 15 front-line health care workers, including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, would be the first people in the state to receive the vaccine.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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