A New York intensive care nurse has become the first person in the US to be vaccinated against coronavirus – as the country surged past 300,000 deaths.
Sandra Lindsay was given her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by Dr Michelle Chester at the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in Queens on Monday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo watched via videolink as the critical care nurse got her jab.
He said Ms Lindsay was the first person to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the state of New York – and “the first person in the United States” as shipments arrived.
Watch LIVE as the first person in New York gets vaccinated: https://t.co/a3p8QOtK6w
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 14, 2020
Three million doses are being given out as part of the first wave of US vaccinations, with healthcare workers and care home residents first in line.
Asked how she was feeling after the vaccine, Ms Lindsay said: “Great. I feel hopeful today, relieved.”
Mr Cuomo thanked the nurse and Dr Chester “for everything you’ve done for all New Yorkers through this pandemic”.
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He said: “I know how horrific it was. It was the modern-day battlefield. You put your fear aside and you stepped up every day.”
The governor added that it was right the first vaccination took place in Queens, describing it as the “epicentre” of the first wave in the spring.
Hospitals in the area were forced to build temporary morgues as coronavirus deaths spiralled out of control in March and April.
But Mr Cuomo said on Monday: “This vaccine is exciting. I believe this is the weapon that will end the war. Now we just have to do it. We’re all with you.”
Around another 400 US sites will get their doses of the vaccine on Tuesday and Wednesday after the regulator approved it for emergency use.
America’s death count is currently the highest in the world – surpassing 300,000 on Monday, with 16 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins university, which has been tracked cases and deaths worldwide.
Analysis: Vaccine is no quick fix for the US and victory over virus still a long way off
By Sally Lockwood, news correspondent
The vaccine brings much-needed hope for America but it will be no quick fix. Rolling it out is a huge and complex operation and many hurdles lie ahead.
The biggest concern is the surging cases and deaths in recent weeks and this is expected to get worse through the Christmas period.
While frontline healthcare workers battle the fierce second wave, they’re also fighting fierce scepticism around a vaccine that could end their living hell.
Deaths from COVID-19 have now surpassed 3,000 a day – higher than the worst days of the first wave.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has warned we could see 9/11 level fatalities every day for the next two to three months.
Frontline healthcare workers in New York and in states around the country took the first vaccinations publicly in a bid to encourage people to get immunised.
But they’re also calling on Americans to be sensible and safe this Christmas, so they can be together for the next. This is tough in a country where the pandemic was politicised very early on. It led to a shambolic response.
America has 4% of the world’s population but 19% of its COVID deaths.
Now at least 75% of Americans need to be immunised to achieve herd immunity.
While you can feel public health officials breathing a collective sigh of relief at the arrival of this vaccine, victory in the crisis still feels a long way off.