First doctor in US receives coronavirus vaccine: 'I went in today feeling very hopeful'

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Dr Yves Duroseau was one of five healthcare workers to receive the inoculation as frontline workers and nursing home residents get priority

Dr Yves Duroseau is the first doctor to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on 14 December.
Dr Yves Duroseau is the first doctor to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on 14 December. Photograph: Scott Heins/Getty Images
Dr Yves Duroseau is the first doctor to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center on 14 December. Photograph: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Last modified on Tue 15 Dec 2020 14.41 EST

Dr Yves Duroseau spent this morning reflecting on the trying year he, his colleagues, and his city have been through. The head of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, Duroseau has spent months caring for the desperately ill, worried for his own safety and that of his colleagues.

He is the first doctor – and the second healthcare worker – in the US to receive a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, three days after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer BioTech drug, according to Northwell Health.

“Going in today, I was just feeling very hopeful,” Duroseau said. He was one of five healthcare workers to receive the vaccine shortly after 9am at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, part of Northwell Health, in Queens, New York.

Frontline healthcare workers and elderly nursing home residents have been given priority as the US rolls out the vaccine. Healthcare workers across the country – including in California, Texas and Florida – received their first doses of a two-dose inoculation today.

For many, the vaccine comes only after losing colleagues. According to Lost on the Frontline, a partnership between the Guardian and Kaiser Health News, nearly 1,500 US healthcare workers appear to have died after working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Many got sick as hospitals were unable to provide adequate personal protective equipment, such as N95 respirators; some of those who were infected were asked to report to work amid staffing shortages; untold others are still dealing with the psychological and emotional toll of working on the frontlines.

Members of the media record the historic moment on 14 December.
Members of the media record the historic moment on 14 December. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Duroseau said he was fortunate to stay healthy during the pandemic, despite a grueling year in which some of his colleagues in the emergency department became infected, though none required hospitalization, he said.

Members of his family were also infected, and a beloved uncle, a veteran in his 70s, died of the virus in May, Duroseau said.

As a Black man, Duroseau said he felt a special responsibility to receive his vaccination publicly. “There is a lot of reservation within certain communities and reluctance to be vaccinated,” he said.“Within those groups, there are people who are very vulnerable or who have disproportionately been impacted by Covid. And it’s so very especially important to get that message out to those communities.”

A recent poll from the Covid Collaborative found that only 14% of Black respondents said they trusted the vaccine would be safe. Black Americans have died at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, and Lost on the Frontline reporting has found those disparities extend to healthcare workers.

Duroseau is scheduled to receive his second dose of the vaccine in three weeks. He said he will continue to observe social distancing, mask-wearing, and washing his hands at all times until enough people are vaccinated to reach herd immunity. He will encourage his patients to do the same.

With Covid cases on the rise in New York, he said his emergency room is the busiest it’s been since May.