“Today I feel hopeful. Relieved,” said critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay after receiving an injection in her arm at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
Shipments of valuable frozen vaccine vials made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech began arriving in hospitals across the country on Monday.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is a long tunnel,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said as he watched Lindsay’s vaccination on video.
Several other countries also approved the vaccine, including the United Kingdom, which began vaccinating last week.
For healthcare workers who, along with nursing home residents, will be first in line for vaccination, hope is dimmed by the pain and sheer exhaustion of the months spent fighting a coronavirus that still remains. is increasing in the US.
“This is mile 24 of a marathon. People are fatigued. But we also recognize that this end is in sight,” said Dr. Chris Dale of Swedish Health Services in Seattle.
Packed in dry ice to stay at deep-frozen temperatures, the first of nearly 3 million doses shipped in staggered batches this week was trucked and flown across the country Sunday from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory. Once they reach the distribution centers, each state indicates where the doses go next.
Some hospitals across the country spent the weekend tracking their packages, updating FedEx and UPS websites for clues.
More Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to give the green light to the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.
Now the hurdle is quickly getting the vaccine into the arms of millions – not just doctors and nurses, but other at-risk healthcare workers like janitors and food handlers – and then administering a second dose three weeks later.
“We’re also in the midst of a surge, and it’s the holidays, and our healthcare workers have been working at an extraordinary pace,” said Sue Mashni, director of pharmacy at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
Additionally, vaccines can cause temporary fever, fatigue and aches as they boost people’s immune systems, forcing hospitals to stagger employee vaccinations.
A wary public will be watching closely to see if healthcare workers accept the vaccination. Only half of Americans say they want to get vaccinated, while about a quarter don’t and the rest aren’t sure, according to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research.
The FDA, considered the world’s strictest medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears safe and strongly protective, and presented the data behind it at a one-day public meeting last week for scientists and consumers to see. .
“Please folks, when you look back a year and say to yourself, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I hope you can say, ‘Yes, because I looked at the evidence,’ “Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “People are dying right now. How can you say, ‘Let’s wait and see'”?
Still, emergency use means the vaccine was approved for widespread use before a final study is completed in nearly 44,000 people, and that research continues to try to answer additional questions. While effective against COVID-19 disease, it is not yet clear whether the vaccine will stop the asymptomatic spread that accounts for half of all cases.
Vaccines have yet to be studied in children and during pregnancy. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Sunday night that pregnant women who would otherwise qualify should not be denied vaccination.
While the vaccine was determined to be safe, UK regulators are investigating several serious allergic reactions. FDA instructions tell suppliers not to give it to people with a known history of serious allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.