It’s going to take some time to really sink in that I just watched the first person in the United States get a COVID-19 vaccine. A few minutes ago, live on TV, Sandra Lindsay, a critical-care nurse in Queens, sat in a chair and received the first injection of one of the vaccine vials sent by manufacturer Pfizer to select hospitals around the country this week.
The official from the hospital where Lindsay works introduced her as someone who has “seen a lot.” As a nurse in the ICU at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Lindsay has no doubt witnessed untold death and suffering in her capacity as a frontline worker in one of America’s first epicenters of the virus, where tens of thousands of New Yorkers have died.
“I feel great,” Lindsay said when asked by the doctor who administered her vaccine how she was doing today. After it was over, she clapped. “I feel hopeful today, relieved,” she added. “I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.”
It is surreal to try and process the momentousness of the occasion, that we might finally be moving to a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic when so much of our experience (in this country, at least) has been total stagnation. We have watched our government leadership fail to act on nearly every level, from the Trump administration’s early dismissal of the virus to Congress’s continued inability to pass much-needed economic stimulus. In New York City, where Lindsay just got the vaccine, millions face eviction without any rent relief. Nearly half of the city’s restaurants, a lifeline for workers and an essential part of New York’s cultural fabric, are on the brink of closure.
So there are miles and miles to go before we can really feel true relief. Three million more doses, shipped in freezing chambers from Michigan around the country, have to get to their destinations safely; they then have to be administered effectively. The frontline workers getting their first dose this week have to get their second three weeks later. The infrastructure and organizational feats required to repeat this across the country seem Herculean.
Nevertheless, watching the vaccine being administered delivers a shot of hope. We might finally be getting somewhere.