Health Care Workers in NJ, Del. Receive 1st Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine

Health care workers and the elderly in senior-living facilities in states across the country received the first doses Monday of the COVID-19 vaccine created by Pfizer. The vaccine also arrived in the Philadelphia region, and mass inoculation began in New Jersey Tuesday

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Inoculations against the COVID-19 infection, which on Monday passed a grim milestone in the United States, began in earnest as health care workers and the elderly were the first to receive doses.

Photos of nurses and seniors living in care facilities appeared Monday morning ahead of Tuesday's first vaccinations.

Tens of thousands of doses had arrived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware already. The first inoculations in New Jersey and Delaware started taking place Tuesday morning at hospitals.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was on hand as University Hospital, Newark, nurse Maritza Beniquez got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine administered in the state.

"I can see that light at the end of the tunnel," she said moments before the shot. Afterward, Beniquez -- who was celebrating her birthday -- clasped her hands and thanked God.

The initial vaccinations are just the start of months of work in what is one of the largest mobilizations for a single logistical purpose in American history. Pfizer has promised the United States 100 million doses in the next couple months, enough to inoculate 50 million Americans.

The vaccine is proven to be 95% effective, but each person must receive two doses before they are immune. The first dose is administered 21 days before the second dose.

The vaccinations can't come soon enough. On Monday, NBC News reported that 300,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

The first wave will include frontline health care workers at hospitals and longterm care facilities as well as seniors living in communal settings. They will be followed by first responders like police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

That still leaves more than 250 million Americans who will eventually need vaccinations.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Monday the United States has purchased another 100 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Azar also said that he expects to be able to vaccinate every American who wants it by the end of the second quarter in 2021.

The federal government hopes it will be able to receive another 100 million doses by the end of March, either through Pfizer or another pharmaceutical company, Moderna, whose vaccine is nearing submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval, or a combination of both companies' doses.

New Jersey will receive three shipments of the Pfizer vaccine this month, beginning with about 76,000 doses this week and another 86,000 next week, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monday.

It could receive 150,000 doses by the end of next week if Moderna's vaccine is given emergency approval by the FDA soon, she said.

Tuesday “is the establishment of our beachhead. It’s going to take several more months of fighting,” Murphy said.

The first doses also arrived in Philadelphia for distribution in Pennsylvania. The city will get 13,500 doses this week, and another 100,000 will go to health care facilities throughout the state in the days ahead, officials said.

NBC10's Katy Zachry gives you a first look at the boxes that contain the Pfizer vaccine that will be administered this week to front-line workers in the Einstein Healthcare Network. The first doses for Einstein workers will be given Wednesday. Other Philadelphia-area hospitals will be giving vaccinations starting Tuesday.

In Delaware, health officials said the state received 8,775 doses on Monday in its first batch.

“The Pfizer vaccine’s arrival is the first step in a process of getting back to our pre-pandemic normal,” Gov. John Carney said. “We are all looking forward to that. The vaccine will provide our front-line health care workers with the protection they need while caring for Delawareans who have contracted the virus. The vaccine’s arrival does not mean we are in the clear. In fact, now more than ever, we need to step up our efforts to keep each other safe."

The first of Delaware's doses was given on Tuesday morning to nurse Elisabeth Cote at Bayhealth's Kent campus in Dover

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

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