Some of the medical centers that saw the worst coronavirus outbreak in the United States found the darkness that has long filled their corridors replaced with exhilaration and hope on Monday as health care workers first took part in a targeted mass vaccination campaign at the end of the pandemic.
Hundreds of those who have been on the front lines against Covid-19 – a nurse from an intensive care unit in New York, an emergency doctor from Ohio, a housekeeper in Iowa – received vaccinations in emotional ceremonies watched by people around the country .
"I have a feeling that healing is coming," said Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care director who was among the first health workers to be vaccinated Monday morning at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens.
The vaccinations came when the nation topped 300,000 coronavirus deaths, a higher number than any other country. Even when there was applause in hospitals, many intensive care units remained almost full.
Doctors, nurses, aides, cleaners, and at least one general manager who said he would get the vaccine early to encourage all staff to do the same.
Dr. Jason Smith, the first Kentuckian to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, showed off the smiley face patch a health care worker put on his arm. "I didn't even feel it," he said.
A group of nuns in Sioux Falls, S.D., blessed the vaccine upon arrival before it was placed in a freezer.
Seth Jackson, an Iowa City nurse, cried on the way to the hospital to get his shot. Robin Mercier, a Rhode Island nurse, was delighted to feel a step closer to kissing her grandchild.
For many Americans who lost loved ones to Covid-19, the introduction of vaccination has been bittersweet. It didn't come soon enough for Mary Smith's husband Mike, who died of the virus in November at the age of 64.
"It was so close," said Ms. Smith, who lives outside of Peoria, Illinois, on Monday.
She expressed frustration with people who said they didn't trust the vaccine. "Those people who say," I don't get it "can only say," Why? Have you lost your mind? "Added Ms. Smith." Didn't you see how many people died? That's real. ""