‘It’s been enough time’: Sandra Lindsay, first person to get COVID-19 vaccine, touts importance of getting doses in every arm


Dec. 14 marks exactly one year since the first woman in the United States received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Baring her arm for all of America to see at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center Northwell Health, the director of nursing for the critical care division at the facility Sandra Lindsay became the first person to receive the life-saving jab after it was officially sanctioned for emergency use. Sitting down with amNewYork Metro to discuss the experience and the whirlwind of a year it has been for the essential worker, Lindsay revealed how vastly her life has changed.

On Dec. 14, 2020, Lindsay did not intentionally step foot into the history books, in fact she wasn’t even aware that she was the first vaccine recipient until after the needle had already entered her body. As a nurse working through the pandemic, her first thoughts were protecting herself, her coworkers, her patients, and her family.

“After I got vaccinated is when I learned that I was the first person in the United States. At first it didn’t hit me, but the weeks after that it really began to sink in, that I had made history. It really, really is an honor to hold this place in history,” Lindsay said.

Although she did not deliberately step into this role, it is one she is proud to represent. Joking that her life has gotten a lot busier, in the time since her jab she has met President Joe Biden in a moment she calls “surreal” while also continuing her work with Northwell Health and serving as an advocate for the vaccine.

“I share my experience and appear on panels. It is a privilege. If it changes minds and helps others to get out of this predicament that we find ourselves in. I love what I do at work, so that is rewarding for me as well. So far I am balancing both work and advocacy, but I must say that I can speak on behalf of healthcare workers that we are exhausted and concerned about the public, particularly those who are unvaccinated.”

After a year of new vaccines, boosters, and COVID-19 variants, Lindsay admits she is both frustrated and worried for those who have still yet to receive at least one dose of a vaccine. She hopes that the scientific fact that the pandemic is not going away without action and the understanding that pioneers— like herself who are safe and healthy one year late—will prompt more people to roll up their sleeves. 

“I hope that they will make the decision that now is a good time with the variants popping up and seeing that the virus is not going away without action that they really need take heed and get themselves protected,” Lindsay said, “We see that variants are popping up because we are not at the level yet where the majority of the population is vaccinated, and that will continue to happen as long as we have low vaccination rates. But luckily for us, we have options now. We have a variety of vaccines on the market. And it’s free for everyone. So, now is the time for people to go ahead and get vaccinated, and for those who are double vaccinated, that they go ahead and get the boosters.”

Despite some still holding reservations when it comes to the vaccines, Lindsay says she remains hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end in the near future. She also adds that for those who said they were waiting for more time, more proof, Lindsay states that it’s been a year and now it’s time to get the shot.

“I am very hopeful. I am optimistic and I know that we will get there. And I hope that this time next year we will be having a different conversation, talking about the virus in the past tense and looking to a brighter future,” Lindsay said.