The Northwell Healthcare System received its first shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine early Monday morning. Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at LIJ, and Dr. Yves Duroseau, chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, were among the first in the nation to receive the vaccine.  Credit: Howard Schnapp, NY Governor's Office

Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, said she has seen the pain that goes with contracting COVID-19.

That's one of the reasons the Port Washington resident on Monday was among the first to take the newly approved coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech. Lindsay, 52, was the first person in the state — and possibly the U.S., other than those in clinical trials — to get the vaccine, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

"I’ve seen too much death, too much pain, too much suffering … fear in the eyes of my employees every day," said Lindsay, who oversees the intensive care units at Long Island Jewish. She was vaccinated during a livestreamed event at the medical center on Monday around 9:20 a.m.

The vaccine, which Pfizer-BioNTech said is 95% effective, started arriving at Long Island hospitals on Monday.

"In New York, we prioritized health care workers at the top of the list to receive the vaccine, because we know that you are out there every day putting your lives in danger for the rest of us, so we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep you safe," Cuomo said.

A mother and grandmother, Lindsay came to the U.S. from Jamaica more than 30 years ago and has been a nurse for 26 years. She worked at Lenox Hill Hospital before moving to Long Island Jewish almost five years ago.

She said getting the vaccine was "an emotional experience," followed by a huge sense of relief. She will have to take a second dose, as will all who take the drug, 21 days later.

"I trust the science," Lindsay said. "I had no hesitation."

Along with the stress of working in health care during the pandemic, Lindsay said she had to focus on helping her family after her grandchild was born prematurely and spent months in a neonatal intensive care unit.

She also lost family members to COVID-19.

Lindsay said she hopes her public experience will persuade other people who worry the vaccine isn’t safe.

"Minorities have been reluctant to take the vaccine based on history," she said. "I would say to them that this is different. It has been offered across the spectrum and we have been heavily affected … I want to encourage them to take the vaccine. That is the only way we are going to put a stop to [the pandemic]. It has to be global."

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