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Critical Care Nurse Sandra Lindsay Gets 1st Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine In U.S.


All right. How great is it to get to read this next line? Today, the first vaccines against COVID-19 are being administered here in the U.S. Health care workers are at the front of the line. And among the very first this morning was Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. She got the shot in the company of dozens of her colleagues.


KELLY: Afterwards, Lindsay reflected on what it means to have protection against the deadly coronavirus, which has now killed 300,000 people in the U.S.


SANDRA LINDSAY: I'm hopeful. I'm excited. I feel relieved. I feel like we're coming to the end, and we really need to put an end to this pandemic.

KELLY: Fred Mogul from member station WNYC was at the hospital with Lindsay this morning. He's here now. Hi there, Fred.


KELLY: Hi. What a scene. What was it like?

MOGUL: Well, you know, it was pretty straightforward. Nurse Lindsay was sitting in a chair, a doctor got out the vaccine needle, stuck her arm, put on a Band-Aid. It was all over in a few seconds - a very brightly lit conference room packed full of reporters. Lots of officials from the hospitals were there. Some of them took questions from the process. Probably not a banner day for social distancing, if I'm being quite honest - all of us packed in there. But it was over pretty quickly.

KELLY: Yeah. And who exactly is she? Do we know why she was chosen to go first?

MOGUL: Well, she is an African American woman, as was - as is the physician who vaccinated her, Dr. Michelle Chester. This wasn't a coincidence. The organizers and Lindsay were very explicit - they're trying to send a message to people of color that they will have access to vaccines and that they should put aside any mistrust or skepticism they have and go out there, get shots as soon as they're available.


MICHELLE CHESTER: I believe in the science, and I want people who look like me, associate with me, to feel confident and comfortable in taking the vaccine.

MOGUL: Now, whether when it hits the general public, it will indeed reach all those vulnerable communities, it remains to be seen, you know, because at the moment, of course, health care workers really are being given the priority.

KELLY: Right. They are being given priority. There's not enough even for all of them in this very first round, even with millions of doses being shipped out. How are hospitals and other health care sites deciding who gets to go first among this very first batch?

MOGUL: You know, each hospital is probably a little bit different. But basically, they're prioritizing the people who work in emergency rooms and intensive care units, as you might imagine, the people who are very closest to the patients. The hospital also says that not just doctors and nurses, of course, though, all the people on those floors - the maintenance workers, the transport people who move patients from place to place - and that also all of these people will additionally be prioritized based on their own age, other risk factors they might have, such as hypertension or diabetes.

KELLY: We have been doing all kinds of reporting on how tricky it is to transport this vaccine, to handle this vaccine. This Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at really, really low temperatures, special freezers. Were there any hiccups that we know of today?

MOGUL: You know, not that they told us about. We asked. We were not surprised when they said it went super smoothly. They emphasized how really important it is just to have everyone lined up, ready to go because, you know, not only these vials of vaccine - they just last a few days in these ultracold freezers. But they come as a powder, and they get hydrated with saline solution. And once that happens, they only last six hours. So you really need to move people through. You need to have the ducks lined up. You could risk wasting doses, and that would be a very, very expensive proposition.

That being said, they do also have to move through somewhat slowly. The people giving the shots need to explain what the consequences could be. And they're held a little longer afterwards than usual, about 15 minutes at least, to observe them to see if there are any side effects. We know that some of them are likely to have at least some side effects, but they should come and go very quickly.

KELLY: OK. And I'm told so far Sandra Lindsay does not have any side effects. So we wish her well. Thank you for your reporting, Fred.

MOGUL: So good to be with you.

KELLY: Fred Mogul of member station WNYC.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Fred Mogul