First COVID-19 vaccines given in the US

A majority of the first shots will go to health care workers.

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Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester on Monday morning in Queens, New York.

Mark Lennihan/Getty Images

Vaccinations against the coronavirus began in the US on Monday morning, with some of the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine being given to health care workers in New York. The vaccinations began on the day the US will reach 300,000 deaths from COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration late Friday granted emergency use authorization to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to distribute its COVID-19 vaccine in the US. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is expected to be at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC, this afternoon as five of the hospital's health care workers receive doses of the vaccine at a ceremonial "kickoff" for the national campaign to end the pandemic, according to The Washington Post

Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, became the first recipient in New York -- and possibly in the US -- of the vaccine outside of a clinical trial. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the media watched the inoculation just after 9:20 a.m. local time.

"I feel like healing is coming," Lindsay said after receiving the vaccine. "I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history."

President Donald Trump celebrated the news with a tweet, saying "First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!"

Given that there are more than 330 million people in the US, not everyone will immediately be able to get the vaccine, which is given in two doses. Health care workers will be prioritized, as well as people at higher risk of severe illness due to age, underlying conditions or profession. Pfizer has said it expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and 1.3 billion in 2021. 

Until COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available in the US, which experts say might not be until spring or summer, people will need to continue to wear masks, social distance and take other precautions against the virus.