By Nikhila Natarajan
New York, Dec 14 (IANS) An epic vaccination campaign against the deadly coronavirus pandemic began in the US Monday as health workers rolled up their sleeves to get their first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine even as the country’s death toll inched towards 300,000 and total cases crossed 16 million in just 11 months.
“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” critical case nurse Sandra Lindsay said after she became the first New Yorker to get the Covid-19 shot at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
“I feel like healing is coming,” Lindsay said, as her history-making moment played on live TV. After her injection site was sealed with a band aid, Lindsay urged Americans to mask up, stay the course and get vaccinated when their time comes.
“Hopefully soon! I’m first on the list!”, read a text message Monday morning from Dr Krishan Kumar, an Indian American doctor on the frontlines of the pandemic response in New York City. Excitement and a sense of relief are palpable as the first Covid-19 shots go into the arms of healthcare workers and nursing home residents in the US.
Kumar works in the emergency rooms of two hospitals, in Brooklyn and in Queens.
On Monday, hospital workers across 50 states began unloading precious cargo: the first vials of nearly 3 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine which mark the shift towards real recovery from a virus that has upended American life and hammered the economy.
The Pfizer vaccine is being transported from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory in massive trucks with dry ice packaging that allows it to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures.
On the night of December 11, US regulators approved emergency use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 years and older, based on recommendations from an independent vaccine advisory committee which debated for over nine hours before ending on a 17-4 vote. The shots are yet to be studied in children and in pregnant women.
“Please people, when you look back in a year and you say to yourself, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I hope you’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, because I looked at the evidence,'” Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in public comments on Sunday.
“People are dying right now. How could you possibly say, ‘Let’s wait and see.'”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has said that White House staffers should not be among the first in the country, currently the hardest-hit by the pandemic, to receive the coronavirus vaccinations.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the President said: “People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary. I have asked that this adjustment be made.
“I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”
By Nikhila Natarajan