Port Washington nurse who received first COVID-19 vaccine honored by Biden

Robert Pelaez
Northwell Health nurse Sandra Lindsay was honored by President Joe Biden on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

The Northwell Health nurse who received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccination in the United States was honored by President Joe Biden on Friday.

Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, received the Pfizer vaccine on the morning of Dec. 14. Lindsay, a Port Washington resident, was awarded the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Outstanding Americans by Choice recognition at the White House on Friday.

“During the height of the pandemic, Sandra poured her heart and soul, working with patients and keeping her fellow nurses safe,” Biden said. “When the time came she became the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside the trials. She can now hug her grandson. She’s out there making sure her patients and folks in the community get vaccinated.”

Biden said Lindsay’s vaccination card, identification badge, and hospital scrubs will be on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in a COVID-19 exhibit.

Lindsay’s journey to becoming the first person in the nation to receive the coronavirus vaccine began nearly three decades ago outside of the United States. When she was 18 years old, Lindsay immigrated from Jamaica to the United States. Lindsay took classes to achieve her first nursing degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College while working at a grocery store and babysitting to pay bills. Lindsay ended up earning her nursing degree in 1994, and became a U.S. citizen three years later.

“I came to this country for the opportunities – not only for myself but to be able to help others,” Lindsay said. “As a nurse, I do everything to care for the sickest patients and lead by example. More than 24 years after becoming a naturalized citizen, I could never have imagined where I am today, at the White House receiving high honors from the President. It’s truly a privilege to be a part of this great nation and I will continue to lead and help those in need.”

Lindsay’s role at Northwell went beyond being the first person to be inoculated in the United States. During the pandemic, Lindsay led a team of nurses in some of the most negatively impacted coronavirus wards at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Since March of last year, Northwell has treated more than 200,000 patients for COVID-19, officials said.

Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling touted Lindsay for her continuous work throughout the pandemic, aside from receiving the first inoculation. Dowling, a fellow immigrant, reflected on how the ripple effects from Lindsay’s tireless work and historic vaccination will live on throughout history.

“Sandra came to this country to make a difference and on that December day she courageously decided to get that shot and help lead this country out of the pandemic,” Dowling said.”As an immigrant myself, Sandra is the epitome of the power immigrants hold in writing this great nation’s history and on behalf of the entire Northwell Health family, we are proud to support her.”

It was also announced on Tuesday that Lindsay will be the grand marshal in New York City’s “Hometown Heroes” Parade on Wednesday morning. The parade, which will be one of the largest ticker-tape parades in New York City history, will honor all of the essential workers who aided the city in recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as the grand marshal in the Hometown Heroes ticker-tape parade and represent all health care and essential workers whose heroic efforts saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lindsay said.

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Robert Pelaez

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