First coronavirus vaccines in U.S. administered Monday

A New York City intensive care nurse became the first person in the state and possibly the nation to receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Monday morning.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo participated in a videoconference about 9:30 a.m. ET with administrators at Northwell Health, the state’s largest health care provider. Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, received the vaccine following comments from Cuomo and Michael Dowling, Northwell’s CEO. during the online event.

“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” said Lindsay after getting the shot. New York City and Queens were the nation’s coronavirus epicenter earlier this year during what was, at that time, the coronavirus’ peak period.

President Donald Trump, whose administration launched Operation Warp Speed to develop a coronavirus vaccine at unprecedented speeds, tweeted his congratulations.

The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history is now underway as health workers in select hospitals rolled up their sleeves for shots to protect them from COVID-19 and start beating back the pandemic. Shipments of precious frozen vials of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech began arriving at hospitals around the country Monday.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s a long tunnel,” Cuomo said as he watched Lindsay’s vaccination via video.

The U.S. is approaching 300,000 coronavirus deaths as the first of many freezer-packed COVID-19 vaccine vials made their way to distribution sites across the United States.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, the U.S. has recorded more than 299,100 COVID deaths as of Monday morning. The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of confirmed cases — 16.2 million — and deaths, ahead of Brazil’s more than 181,000.

The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, ushers in the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history.

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Hospital workers began unloading frozen vials of COVID-19 vaccine Monday. Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, the first of nearly 3 million doses being shipped in staggered batches this week made their way by truck and by plane around the country Sunday from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory. Once they arrive at distribution centers, each state directs where the doses go next.

More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to green-light the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

The FDA, considered the world’s most strict medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears safe and strongly protective, and laid out the data behind it in a daylong public meeting last week for scientists and consumers alike to see.

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2 UK health workers suffer allergic reaction to COVID-19 vaccine

While the vaccine was determined to be safe, regulators in the U.K. are investigating several severe allergic reactions. The FDA’s instructions tell providers not to give it to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.

Quick transport is key for the vaccine, especially because this one must be stored at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Early Sunday, workers at Pfizer — dressed in fluorescent yellow clothing, hard hats and gloves — wasted no time as they packed vials into boxes. They scanned the packages and then placed them into freezer cases with dry ice. The vaccines were then taken from Pfizer’s Portage, Michigan, facility to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, where the first cargo plane took off amid what airport officials called a “jubilant” mood.