One of the first people to get a public dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine was a doctor in Texas who has gone to work, fighting the virus for 277 consecutive days.
“This is like having gold,” Dr. Joseph Varon told CNN as he held a box of doses shortly before he was vaccinated. “I don’t cry, but I came very close … You know how many lives you can save with this?”
Varon was the first at his hospital to get the vaccine in an effort to assure staff and the largely minority community he serves that the vaccine is safe.
As of Monday, at least 18.01 million people have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 319,000 people in the US have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Varon, a critical care doctor and chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, said he has signed far more death certificates during this pandemic than he could have ever imagined. And some of his staff members have fallen sick with Covid-19.
Varon said those working in the Covid unit will get the vaccine first followed by staff assigned to the emergency room.
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday at a hospital in Newark, Delaware..
“We owe these folks an awful lot,” Biden said, thanking those involved in the vaccine’s development and distribution and frontline health care workers.
Biden said the Trump administration deserved “some credit” for Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s vaccine program, and their role in making coronavirus vaccinations possible.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Francis Collins, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on Twitter that he will receive Moderna’s vaccine, alongside Azar, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other NIH frontline workers.
As of Monday morning more than 614,000 Americans have received a vaccine shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid Data Tracker.
Most Americans will have to wait months before getting their inoculations.
In the meantime, new infections, hospitalizations and deaths keep soaring, prompting health experts to urge the public to stay home this Christmas week.
“This is really not the time to be traveling,” epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder said.
But millions of airline passengers ignored such advice and traveled over the weekend.
Now travelers risk getting infected with a variant of coronavirus that might be even more contagious.