America’s First Coronavirus Vaccinations

As the first shots are administered in the United States, we hear what it was like for health care workers in North Dakota and New Orleans.

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Rachel Quester and Michael Simon Johnson, with help from Alexandra Leigh Young; and edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Larissa Anderson.

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It was like a scene from a movie. In North Dakota, health care workers lifted a bag of dry ice covering one of the state’s first shipments of the coronavirus vaccine and a cloud filled the room. The strict guidelines governing the vaccine’s storage make even opening the box a complex and time-sensitive process.

In New Orleans, an inpatient pharmacist became the first person in Louisiana to administer the vaccine — a career highlight.

While these health care workers were excited that the vaccine had finally arrived, the mood was tempered by a bleak fact: The battle against the coronavirus is not yet over.

On today’s episode, we hear from health care workers in two hard-hit states about their hopes and fears for the coming months.

  • Jack Healy, a national correspondent for The New York Times.


Unloading the vaccine in Fargo, N.D. The shipment arrived hours earlier than expected.
Credit…Tim Gruber for The New York Times
  • Monday’s vaccinations, the first in a staggeringly complicated national campaign, were a moment infused with hope and pain for hundreds of America’s health care workers.

  • Some of the medical centers that have endured the worst of the coronavirus found the gloom that has long filled their corridors replaced by elation. The vaccine campaign, however, began on the same day that America surpassed 300,000 deaths from Covid-19.

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Jack Healy contributed reporting.

The Daily is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Alix Spiegel, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano and Soraya Shockley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.

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Michele Klemp