It was one year ago today that Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse in Queens, became the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. outside of a clinical trial.
Lindsay was honored at President Biden's inauguration, and her scrubs were sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History along with the vial of COVID-19 vaccine that contained her dose.
"I felt like it was my civic duty as well as my professional responsibility to do my part. I look back now with a lot of pride,” Lindsay told the New York Times of the historic moment.
Her vaccination came just after the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December 2020. And the FDA's authorization for the Moderna mRNA vaccine followed a week later. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine received authorization in February 2021.
At first, vaccinations were only available to those working on the front lines of the pandemic — including health care workers like Lindsay — and those considered to be at the highest risk for severe COVID-19 complications, such as those in long-term care facilities.
As of today, more than 800,000 people in the U.S. have died due to COVID-19 and about 50 million people have gotten the infection.
But in one year, the U.S. has made tremendous strides in getting the public vaccinated. In the past year, more than 477 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., and just over 60% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those age 65 and older, 87% have been vaccinated.
As impressive as 60% is, we’ll need to get even more of the public vaccinated and, eventually, boosted. (Only about 54 million people have gotten a booster dose, according to CDC data.) Previously, experts told TODAY that the country should aim to get at least 70% to 85% of the population fully vaccinated.
“We have more work to do here in the U.S., although we’ve made tremendous progress — 60% is progress,” Lindsay told the Times.
Along with prevention measures such as masks and rapid at-home testing, widespread vaccination here and abroad is key to reducing the toll of COVID-19. Increasing vaccination rates will also make it less likely that new concerning variants will emerge and, ultimately, get us back to the activities we all miss from our pre-pandemic days.