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Front-line workers receive second dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Health care workers across Long Island are starting

Health care workers across Long Island are starting to receive the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Newsday's Chelsea Irizarry reports.  Credit: Howard Schnapp, Barry Sloan and Kendall Rodriguez

The first health care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine returned on Monday for their second and final dose, with nurse Sandra Lindsay of Port Washington again leading the way.

Lindsay, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, on Dec. 14 became the first person in New York and possibly the nation to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, other than those in clinical trials. On Monday, Lindsay may have been the first person in the United States to get fully vaccinated, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling said.

"It feels like I have completed the cycle, closed the loop," Lindsay told reporters during a news conference outside Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

"The last 21 days has been quite busy educating, inspiring, encouraging people to trust the science, get informed and get vaccinated," said Lindsay, director of patient care, critical care at Long Island Jewish.

The vaccine requires two doses, to be administered 21 days apart. A second vaccine, developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, since has been approved for use. It requires two shots given 28 days apart.

Dowling said Northwell has vaccinated 26,000 people in its health system.

He said he expects all staffers who received the first dose of the vaccine will receive their second dose by end of day Tuesday, explaining the 21-day break between shots can be lengthened by a day or two without any impact on effectiveness.

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Hospitals across the region started the task of giving the second doses while still trying to hasten initial inoculations for other priority health care workers.

Medical staff at St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center also started receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Dr. Scott Strumpfler, associate chair of the Emergency Department at St. Francis, received his second dose.

"I had a sore arm, and that's it," he said about receiving the first dose last month. "No bad reaction at all, and I can't say I even thought twice about getting the vaccine."

Dr. Stefan Muehlbauer, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Francis, said he didn’t know anyone who had a severe reaction after receiving the vaccine.

"A few people had fatigue, but that's it," Muehlbauer said after receiving his second shot.

St. Francis Employee Health manager Tiffany Fusco said the sore arm she had after her first shot was a small price to pay for the vaccination.

"This is the only way we can get back to normal," Fusco said. "A lot of people here are excited about it, and we are encouraging people to get it."

NYU Langone Hospital - Long Island also started its second round of vaccinations on Monday, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

Receiving the second dose of vaccine does not provide 100% immunity from COVID-19, said Dr. Michelle Chester of Northwell, who administered both of Lindsay’s doses.

"It does not mean we are back to 'normal,' " Chester said, pointing out that Lindsay and others who were vaccinated still need to observe social distancing and wear face coverings.

"It does not mean that we drop all precautions and move forward."

Watching the number of COVID-19 cases rise in recent weeks has been sobering for Lindsay and her colleagues.

"We don't want to get back to where we were in March and April and seeing all that suffering and death around us," she said. "We are focused and we are fighting with everything we've got like we did the first time and we will get through this."

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