The first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in 2020 repeated the feat again today as part of a public health awareness event. Sandra Lindsay, RN, became a global phenomenon on December 14, 2020, when the Northwell Health critical care nurse director received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Nearly three years later, Nurse Lindsay volunteered to be the first American to receive this season’s shot: Pfizer-BioNTech 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine. This mRNA formulation offers protection against BA.2, BA.2.86 “Pirola,” EG.5 “Eris,” XBB.1.5 COVID variants – needed immunity as COVID hospitalizations begin to rise ahead of the fall and winter season.
Despite serving on the front lines of the pandemic, Nurse Lindsay has yet to be infected with COVID-19. “It’s important that people understand that COVID is still around and can still severely affect an individual,” said Nurse Lindsay. “Having worked through the darkest days of the pandemic and seen the devastating effects it can have, I tell people not to take chances. We have powerful weapons like vaccines to prevent those devastating outcomes.”
This was the third COVID-19 vaccine – and sixth, including boosters – taken by Nurse Lindsay, who has since been elevated to the role of vice president of public health advocacy at Northwell. The FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday followed by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Tuesday.
Michelle Chester, FNP-BC, DNP, senior director of Employee Health Services at Northwell, administered the shot. She also gave Nurse Lindsay the vaccine in 2020. Also joining Nurse Lindsay in receiving vaccinations were: Adam Berman, MD, associate chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park; Mozhdeh Mehrabian, a respiratory therapist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset; and Mangala Narasimhan, MD, senior vice president of critical care services at Northwell.
“Vaccination is and has proven to be an important tool to fight against the severity of COVID-19,” said Jill Kalman, MD, chief medical officer and deputy physician in chief at Northwell Health. “We’re here now to reinforce that there is extra protection available against the newest COVID-19 variants as the FDA and CDC have approved a new seasonal vaccine.”
Northwell has administered about 800,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since the end of 2020. The FDA and CDC have said the vaccine is safe and effective for anyone ages 6 months and older. Northwell Health will offer both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to its employees and the general public through its ambulatory network once it receives doses.
“It’s been three-and-a-half years since COVID hit the world and we have not forgotten,” said Bruce Farber, MD, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell. “At the peak of the First Wave, our health system had nearly 3,500 hospitalized COVID patients. This week, it’s less than 200. Even though that number has bumped up considerable since July, the majority are incidental cases, meaning that they have been hospitalized for some other reason. Nevertheless, COVID causes at lot of morbidity and it interrupts lives. That’s why we support vaccines as a major way to prevent COVID.”
Dr. Farber also warned of a surge later this fall and into the winter – another possible “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV – unless Americans embrace vaccines. Flu and COVID vaccines can be taken at the same time. RSV is also available and should be considered for at-risk populations.
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health system and private employer.