December 14 will go down in United States history as, perhaps, the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
After a year that has so far seen over 300,000 Americans die of COVID-19 and over 16 million confirmed cases of the disease, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday.
On Monday, frontline workers and high-risk Americans across the country received their first dose of the two-part vaccine.
With the promise of more vaccines on the horizon, many government officials and health care workers lauded the Pfizer vaccine rollout as much-needed good news. And while administration officials warned Americans not to let their guard down in the coming months, the rapid approval process for COVID vaccines is something everyone can celebrate.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams held a ceremonial kick-off event at the George Washington University Hospital Monday afternoon, applauding the work of frontline workers before watching several hospital employees receive their first dose of the vaccine.
“Today is truly an historic day,” Adams said at the start of the press conference. “Vaccinations have been a tried and true public health measure for hundreds of years, but the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is nothing short of revolutionary and I hope everyone appreciates the importance, the significance, the history of this moment.”
Take a look at some of the first people across the country who received the first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Monday:
Sandra Lindsay, critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Glen Oaks, was the first person in the nation to receive the vaccine Monday morning.
“It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine," Lindsay said, after rolling up her sleeve and getting the shot on live television.
Lindsay has treated coronavirus patients since the outbreak began in New York.
"I feel like healing is coming," Lindsay said. "I hope this marks the beginning to the end of the very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We're in a pandemic so we all need to do our part to put an end to the pandemic. I believe in science. As a nurse, my practice is guided by science, so I trust science. What I don't trust is that if I contract COVID I don't know how it will impact me or those who I come in contact with."
Atrium Health's Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Katie Passaretti was the first to get the shot in North Carolina, Atrium said Monday.
"I just got my first COVID vaccine," Passaretti said. "I feel perfectly fine."
Describing how she felt Monday, Passaretty said, "Just a moment of hope, a moment of potential for change of the course that we're on with the pandemic right now. I couldn't be more excited."
She encouraged everyone to get vaccinated.
More than 5,800 people have died from the virus in North Carolina. As of Monday, more than 2,500 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center began administering shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday, officials said.
The state did not choose one particular individual to get the first shot, instead vaccinating a group of six frontline healthcare workers simultaneously.
The first vaccine shots were administered at 10:45 a.m. to emergency department and intensive care unit Wexner employees, said Dr. Andrew Thomas, the hospital's chief clinical officer.
"It was a pretty momentous occasion, and a really good feeling that this may be the end of the beginning of the pandemic and that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Thomas said.
Video shared by Ohio State’s Twitter account showed hospital workers chanting “3, 2, 1, vaccinate!” before administering the shots.
Tarin Warns, a nurse at Ohio State, was among the first to get vaccinated at Wexner on Monday.
"My unit has been really affected [by COVID],” she told Spectrum News. “It’s been very overwhelming, very tiring, very sad."
A 31-year-old nurse at Tampa General Hospital rolled up her left shirt sleeve Monday and became one of the first people in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccination was held during a news conference at the hospital, with Gov. Ron DeSantis looking on.
“Today was really a historic day,” he said.
The president and CEO at Tampa General said the hospital had the personnel, supplies, and procedures in place to distribute the vaccine as soon as it arrived.
“This is truly a historic moment,” Tampa General President John Couris said at the news conference.
“This is 20,000 doses of hope. This is the beginning to the end. This is monumental if you’re sitting in our shoes," he said.
Nursing home “strike teams” will also be among the first to receive the vaccine. Long term care facilities have been an infection hot spot in the state, with more than 700 deaths to date.
DeSantis said Monday that he signed for the vaccines from FedEx and watched as they were loaded into freezers.
He said the hospitals will be a “beta test” for distribution across the rest of the state and added that Tampa General “leaned forward” during the pandemic to be one of the hospitals to receive vaccines.
Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at University of Louisville Health, was the first Kentuckian to receive the vaccine Monday.
“Hopefully by this time next year, this will all be behind us, and we’ll be able to be back to something more normal as far as our daily lives are concerned,” Smith said before receiving the vaccine. “Our kids will be back in school, our stores and restaurants are going to be open. All of the things that we cherish in our daily lives will be back to normal, and it starts today.”
Five other front-line healthcare workers received the vaccine soon after Dr. Smith, including Valerie Briones-Pryor, MD; Mohamed Saad, MD; LaShawn Scott, MSN/Ed, RN, CCRN-K; and Beth Sum, BSN.
Gov. Andy Beshear delivered remarks, calling Monday a "historic" day for Kentucky.
“We are here this morning at the University of Louisville Hospital to mark the true beginning of the end of this pandemic,” Beshear said. “And hopefully, while it starts here, it spreads out across this country and across this world.”
Two other Kentucky hospitals, including Baptist Health Lexington and the Medical Center at Bowling Green, received 975 doses of the vaccine and began their vaccination plans Monday.
Seven Kentucky hospitals are expected to receive vaccine shipments Tuesday: Baptist Health Corbin, Baptist Health Louisville, Baptist Health Madisonville, Norton Hospital, Pikeville Medical Center, St. Elizabeth Healthcare Edgewood and University of Kentucky Medical Center.
Tina Schubert, a respiratory therapist at UW Health in Madison, became the first known Wisconsinite to get her shot Monday afternoon.
"We have a long road, but this is just a small step, but we’re getting there," Schubert said Monday. "I want to inspire people, especially the patients that look like me and that I take care of every day, that’s it’s OK to get vaccinated. It’s safe, and I want to put a name and a face.”
Nurse Mavic Tjardes received Wisconsin’s second COVID-19 vaccine, with Dr. Ann Sheehy going third.
DHS officials said that Wisconsin was expecting 49,725 doses to arrive this week, in a portion calculated according to state population.
“In the coming months, starting as soon as today, we will begin providing vaccines to Wisconsinites,” Julie Willims Van Dijk, deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said at a Monday briefing.
Like other leading vaccine candidates, the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses — spaced three weeks apart — to establish the immune response. The initial shipment will serve as the first doses for 49,725 high-priority Wisconsinites, with another shipment of the same size set aside for their follow-up shots, DHS officials explained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.