Medical workers gave the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in locations across the U.S. on Monday, December 14, 2020, kicking off the largest inoculation programme in the country’s history.
Regulators over the weekend gave the final approvals needed for the emergency use of the vaccine, and logistics companies working with the federal government began to move the doses from Pfizer’s sites to distribution points.
Among the first in line who got the available doses were health care workers at high risk.
About 145 sites in all 50 states were estimated to get doses on Monday, with hundreds more during the days ahead, according to the U.S. military, which is helping with the logistics.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will preside over a ceremony at George Washington University Hospital in Washington to mark the event, but states will be administering their own programmes over the course of the day and in the weeks ahead.
The first vaccines are being rolled out as the U.S. nears the grim death toll of 300,000 people from the virus.
The country has been regularly breaking its daily records for hospitalisations from COVID-19, in a sign of an ongoing serious outbreak.
Los Angeles’ Lax airport was among the logistical nodes that confirmed that the vaccines were moving to their final destinations, posting photos on Twitter of FedEx planes landing, doses on board.
Governors and officials in numerous states also confirmed their health authorities were in possession of the doses.
Meanwhile, New York has received its first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Blasio told CNN on Monday morning that he would visit a hospital later in the day to witness a healthcare worker receive the first shots.
He stated that the vaccine offered hope to the city, “and New Yorkers could now see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
“It is going to be a good day,” the mayor said.
He was not specific on the number of doses that arrived on Monday, but reports say officials were expecting enough to vaccinate 170,000 people.
This represents a quarter of the estimated 1.8 million people on the priority list in the first phase of inoculation in the state, reports say.
Monday’s shipment is part of the state’s initial allocation, and priority will be given to people considered mostly at risk as is the case nationwide.
The first groups to be inoculated will be frontline healthcare workers, and staff members, and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
New York was the hardest hit state in the U.S. during the first wave of the pandemic.
According to John Hopkins University, total infections and fatalities in the state were no fewer than 775,160 and 35,557, respectively.
The vaccine’s arrival came at a time the state is experiencing a resurgence of infections, which are increasing by no fewer than 10,000 daily.
New York is also currently recording a daily death increase by 107, as hospitals get flooded by patients in numbers last seen in May.
Soon after the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state was ready for distribution.
Cuomo said the state government had prepared the necessary groundwork for “the most aggressive distribution administration programme”.
“The vaccine is coming and we’re ready to administer it,” he said.