The first doses of the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine are being administered this week in the United States, as the country nears 300,000 deaths, more than any other in the world. 

According to the New York Times, the first known clinically authorized vaccination outside of trials was given to Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The borough was one of the earliest communities hit hard by the pandemic, and more than 35,000 New York state residents have died after contracting the virus. 

“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday morning before the vaccine was given to Lindsay, a critical care nurse. The first vaccinations were live streamed on Periscope.

“I have seen the alternative, and do not want it for you,” Lindsay told the Times. “I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.”

Donald Trump also celebrated the occasion that marks a turning point in the COVID-19 crisis. This follows reports, and criticism, that his White House staff will be among the first to receive the vaccine. “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA!” he tweeted on Monday.

Lindsay, along with everyone else vaccinated on Monday, will need to receive her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 21 days. The FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine last Friday, but it will be a long time before a majority of Americans are vaccinated thanks to production and quantity constraints. Still, the pharmaceutical company will be rolling out the vaccine at hundreds of sites across the country, prioritizing high-risk workers and elderly Americans. 

As Americans begin receiving the two-part vaccine, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci stresses that social distancing and mask wearing aren't going away anytime soon, since many Americans will have to wait until the Spring or Summer of next year to get vaccinated. “I believe we can get there by then so that by the time we get into the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief, where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start essentially approaching some form of normality,” he said on MSNBC on Monday. “A vaccine right now is not a substitute for the normal standard public health measures.”

While there is hope on the horizon, unfortunately cases across the country continue to rise and hospital beds are filling up following holiday travel. Various states are now reimplementing early COVID-19 shutdown policies.