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Frontline healthcare workers at LIJ receive first COVID-19 vaccinations

The first round of Pfizer vaccines are being administered at Long Island Jewish Medical Center to frontline healthcare workers.
Photo by Dean Moses

Monday marked a historic day amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Dec. 14, New York hospitals received their shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, and the Director of Critical Care at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center, Sandra Lindsay RN, was the very first recipient. 

Dr. Michelle Chester, Northwell’s director of employee health services, has been administering the vaccinations throughout the morning. Photo by Dean Moses

The momentous occasion was streamed live at about 9:20 a.m., during which Governor Andrew Cuomo watched remotely, and Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling observed in person, as Lindsay received her vaccination. The feat was followed by a round of applause after it was injected into her arm. 

This vaccination was followed by two other inoculation recipients — the most recent of which was Stephanie, a register nurse, who sat upon the examination chair proudly as she extended her arm, ready to be one of the first to move forward during this pandemic. 

Once administered, Stephanie exclaimed happily that she feel great to crowd of onlookers. 

Amidst the thousands upon thousands who have died due to the COVID-19 virus, this landmark vaccine makes its way to cities throughout the United States just in time for the holidays. 

At an 11 a.m. conference, Dowling addressed the media by underscoring that although the vaccination is here, individuals should not be lax about their precautions. It is still pivotal that everyone wear their masks, wash their hands, and maintain social distance. 

“We’ve been at the epicenter of the COVID crisis back since March. We have seen well over 100,000 COVID patients. Today is a very special day, we can now see, since the vaccine is available, the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a beautiful opportunity for us to be confident, hopeful, and positive that we can, if we all work together, end this COVID crisis,” Dowling said. 

Doctor Chester preps the COVID-19 vaccine for administration. Photo by Dean Moses

At LIJ, the inoculations were distributed in waves during press conferences, allowing groups of journalists to capture the scene for the world to see. It was stressed by LIJ officials that this vaccination has undergone several studies and it is the only way to return to normalcy. 

Dowling began by introducing the very first recipient, Lindsay, to provide everyone with an update as to how she feels since receiving her vaccination at a little after 9:30 a.m. 

“Today is special for me. It should give you all hope that finally the vaccine is here. I feel like the vaccine is safe. I’m confident in science. This marks the beginning of the end of a very dark time in our lives. So we can feel hopeful today. My arm feels fine. It doesn’t feel any different than getting a regular vaccine. I feel relieved for myself, for my colleagues who have been working tirelessly on the frontlines over the past 10 months. I can’t thank them enough, as a leader in the health system I think it was important for me to take the vaccine and lead by example. I would not ask my staff to not do anything that I would not do myself,” Lindsay said. 

Distribution will continue over the course of four to six weeks, depending on the supply for healthcare workers, health officials said. 

The choice for which hospitals would receive the vaccination was based on whether they contained an ultra-cold storage area for the Pfizer vaccine vials.  The contents of this vaccine are highly sensitive, and once removed from the dry ice they were packed in, they must be placed in a freezer within 90 seconds.  

Cuomo devised a hierarchy of who will be receiving the vaccinations first:  frontline healthcare workers with high exposure to COVID-19, which will then be followed by nursing home staff and individuals resident in those facilities.

After these vaccinations have been distributed, individuals who work in high interaction and essential vocations, such as firefighters and teachers would be next on the list.

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