Dr. Yves Duroseau has spent this morning reflecting on the trying year he, his colleagues and his city have gone through. Chief of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, Duroseau has spent months caring for patients desperately concerned for his own safety and that of his colleagues.
He is the first doctor – and the second healthcare worker – in the United States to receive a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, three days after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency clearance for the drug Pfizer BioTech, according to Northwell Health.
“Coming in today, I felt very optimistic,” said Duroseau. He was one of five healthcare workers to receive the vaccine shortly after 9 a.m. 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 United States launches the vaccine. Healthcare workers across the country – including California, Texas and Florida – received their first two-dose inoculation today.
For many, the vaccine only comes after losing colleagues. According to Lost on the Frontline, a partnership between the Guardian and Kaiser Health News, nearly 1,500 U.S. healthcare workers appear to have died after working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Many fell ill because hospitals were unable to provide adequate personal protective equipment, such as N95 respirators; some of those who were infected were told to report to work due to staff shortages; countless more still grapple with the psychological and emotional consequences of frontline work.
Duroseau said he had been fortunate enough to stay healthy during the pandemic, despite a trying year in which some of his colleagues in the emergency department were infected, although none required hospitalization, has he declared.
Members of his family were also infected and a beloved uncle, a veteran in his sixties, died from the virus in May, Duroseau said.
As a black man, Duroseau said he felt a special responsibility to receive his vaccination publicly. “There are a lot of reservations within some communities and a reluctance to get vaccinated,” he said. And it is especially important to get this message across to these communities.
A recent survey from the Covid Collaborative found that only 14% of black respondents said they believed the vaccine would be safe. Black Americans have died at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, and reports from Lost on the Frontline have found that these disparities extend to healthcare workers.
Duroseau is expected to receive his second dose of the vaccine in three weeks. He said he would continue to observe social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands at all times until enough people are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. He will encourage his patients to do the same.
With the increase in Covid cases in New York City, he said his emergency room was the busiest since May.