Smithsonian Acquires Vial Used for First US COVID Vaccination

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More than 93 million Americans have received the coronavirus vaccine in the United States. The first was Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care unit nurse who was injected on Dec. 14 in New York City.

The vial that contained the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on that day is now going to be preserved at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian announced Tuesday.

Other items from that day were also donated to the Smithsonian, including Lindsay’s vaccination card, her scrubs, and her hospital ID from Northwell Health, a health care provider operating the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“These now-historic artifacts document not only this remarkable scientific progress, but represent the hope offered to millions living through the cascading crises brought on by COVID-19,” the museum’s director Anthea M. Hartig said in a news release.

The museum formed a rapid-response team in April 2020 to collect objects related to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on culture.

Onisis Stefas, Northwell’s chief pharmacy officer, said the hospital didn’t know it would be administering the first vaccine, but they chronicled the event and kept the materials to remember the moment.

“The amount of joy we felt after so much hardship, it was just unbelievable,” Stefas told the Smithsonian. “We would have held on to it regardless, to remind us of that moment, which was like a turning point in the pandemic.”

The Smithsonian has acquired many other pandemic artifacts, including the first Moderna vaccine to be administered at Northwell on Dec. 22; supplies to prepare, inject, and track vaccinations;and packing materials to transport the vaccine under super cold conditions.

“We’ve had everything from offers of masks that people have made to objects related to treatment of COVID, to practitioners offering us objects related to how they’ve gone about protecting themselves or their family,” said Alexandra M. Lord, curator in the museum’s division of medicine and science.

Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, recently donated his personal 3-D model of the coronavirus that he’d used to explain the virus to people, including lawmakers and government officials.

The museum has a collection of items related to epidemics and pandemics dating back to cholera outbreaks of the 19th century, including the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

Yet the Smithsonian said it has nothing to represent the 1918 pandemic that killed 670,000 people in the United States and at least 50 million people worldwide. Lord said that’s probably because that pandemic was so intense nobody thought about collecting things.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 527,000 people in the United States and 2.6 million around the world.


Smithsonian. “First Vial Used in U.S. Covid-19 Vaccinations Joins the Smithsonian Collections”

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