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NYC Nurse Is Among The 1st To Get COVID-19 Vaccine In The U.S.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the last hour, the first coronavirus vaccine administered in the United States was given to a critical care nurse in New York City. Applause broke out as the event was webcast.

(APPLAUSE)

INSKEEP: You can understand the feeling. NPR's Brian Mann is covering the story. Let's go right to it. Brian, who was it that received the vaccine?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Yeah, Steve, it was Sandra Lindsay. She's a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and she's been one of the folks on the front lines over the last 10 months caring for COVID-19 patients, putting herself at risk. And, yeah, she jumped in. It was a really cool scene. The shot was administered quickly. And what she said was that she's hoping that this will encourage other people to lean in and get vaccinated. She called it a lifesaving treatment. And I should say that federal officials are going to hold a similar kind of ceremonial vaccination later today at George Washington University Hospital, vaccinating front-line health care workers there. But, yeah, right out of the gate here in New York City, which you'll remember was one of the cities hardest hit by this pandemic.

INSKEEP: Yeah, it sounds like Lindsay is the very example of the kind of person they want to get the vaccine in the early days.

MANN: Absolutely. These people - so vulnerable, put themselves at risk day after day. I will say that one other message, Steve, just quickly, is that they said, you know, while we're doing this, please keep wearing your masks, keep doing the social distancing. Obviously, the rollout of this is not going to be immediate for most Americans. So we're still in this and all those other things are still important.

INSKEEP: Let's talk through what is happening today because you just mentioned this first person to get the vaccine in New York. You mentioned the ceremonial vaccination of some people in Washington, D.C. Isn't this happening in cities across the country this very day?

MANN: Yeah. So imagine just this huge logistical rollout - trucks moving, UPS, FedEx, you know, flights carrying this vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has to be kept at temperatures like the ones in Antarctica. So there's a lot of technical work around this. I live and work in rural America - right? - so there's also this challenge to get this vaccination out to people in areas where there aren't many hospitals and clinics. So all of those different pieces are going into effect. And there's also just still a limited supply of this vaccine. So a lot of decisions being made right now about who gets the vaccine, who's going to be first in line. Obviously, these medical workers are right at the front of the queue. But also a lot of seniors are on the list all across New York and across the country.

INSKEEP: One of the ironies - you mentioned that there are some people that need to be reassured. They have their doubts about this vaccine or any vaccine. But at the same time, there is overwhelming demand. We heard from Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, elsewhere in today's program, saying that she's getting 80,000 doses in Michigan. They were hoping for an initial shipment of half a million. There are clearly people who are desperate to get every dose they can.

MANN: Yeah. This is such an emotional moment because there is obviously distrust and doubt. On the other side of the equation, Steve, this is a moment for a city like New York that was devastated by this pandemic. And here we had front-line health care workers who didn't have enough personal protective equipment. They weren't kept safe initially. And now there is this hopeful moment. So we'll see how this rollout continues. But right now, this was a big day.

INSKEEP: Sandra Lindsay, registered nurse, got the first dose today in New York. NPR's Brian Mann is covering it. Brian, thanks.

MANN: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.