The Jamaican nurse who created history by becoming the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is urging her countrymen to get the life-saving jab to shield them from the virus that has infected almost 73 million people globally and killed 1.6 million.
Sandra Lindsay, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Long Island Jewish Medical Hospital in New York, joined in the applause shortly after the first dose was injected into her arm on Monday.
Amid rife scepticism over the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, Lindsay has urged Jamaicans to listen to the scientists and to ignore conspiracy theories that may stymie efforts to inoculate the population.
“My hope is that this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. I have seen what it has done and what it is doing to our people, and I just want it to be over,” Lindsay told The Gleaner hours after taking the jab.
“I hope that when the vaccine is available to Jamaicans, they will grasp the opportunity to take the vaccine. It is safe, and I am confident that it will bring relief,” the Glenmuir High alumna added.
The advice from Lindsay comes in the wake of a Monday Gleaner report indicating that many front-line healthcare staff, including doctors, nurses, porters, guards, and others, were not receptive to taking the jab as a buffer against the virus, which has killed 273 people locally and infected almost 11,800.
Negative take-up could hobble the Holness administration’s plan to inoculate 450,000 Jamaicans, about 16 per cent of the population.
Lindsay, a critical-care nurse for more than 20 years, first working at Lenox Hill Hospital and for the past four and a half year at Long island Jewish Medical Hospital, said that she was eager to get her shot having seen first-hand the suffering and pain COVID-19 has caused in New York.
“I was not pressured nor paid to take it. I volunteered to take it because I just want to see the end to this pandemic,” she said.
New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said that it was fitting that Lindsay, 52, was the first to get the shot and Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he felt hopeful and relieved.
“I feel the healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of the very painful time in our history,” said Lindsay, who has been on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus which has claimed the lives of close to 300,000 Americans and infected more than 16 million people across the country.
Born in Clarendon, Lindsay migrated to the United States more than 30 years ago to pursue her nursing career after graduating from high school. She is the holder of an MBA from Hofstra University and is currently pursuing a doctorate.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency approval last Friday to the vaccine developed by German Company BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer. Shipments began rolling out across the United States for administration beginning Monday.
For healthcare workers, who along with nursing home residents will be first in line for vaccination, hope is tempered by grief and the sheer exhaustion of months spent battling a coronavirus that still is surging in the US and around the world.
Jamaican Dr Robert Clarke, who has been on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 in New Jersey, told The Gleaner that he is slated to get the vaccine later this week when the first batch reaches his hospital in East Orange, New Jersey.
“I am on the front line and among the first group to get vaccinated when it comes to the hospital. Hopefully, this will happen later this week,” he said.
Clarke said he is hopeful about the vaccine’s prospect.
“It can’t come soon enough. I am looking forward to it, and everyone should get the vaccine when it is available to them,” he said.
Clarke said that the vaccine is very safe.
Dr Michael Morgan, another Jamaican on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, said he did not know when he would get the vaccine.
Morgan said that he wants to review the data on the vaccine, but suggested a different roll-out target group than what is accepted in global medical orthodoxy.
“I believe that the vaccine should be given to the wider public first, because they are the ones coming into the hospitals with the virus,” he opined.
The hurdle now is to rapidly get the vaccine into the arms of millions, not just doctors and nurses, but other at-risk health workers such as janitors and food handlers — and then deliver a second dose three weeks later.
Still, in winning approval for widespread emergency use, the vaccine was cleared before a final study in nearly 44,000 people was complete. That research is continuing to try to answer additional questions.
The shots still must be studied in children and during pregnancy. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said on Sunday that vaccination should not be withheld from pregnant women who otherwise would qualify.
Also, regulators in Britain are investigating a few severe allergic reactions.
The FDA instructed providers not to give the vaccine to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.