December 19, 2020
In the same way that evening applause rang out to honor frontline healthcare workers, this week, people lined the streets to welcome FedEx and UPS trucks carrying the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“For the first time after a long time, there’s hope,” said Dr. Kalpesh Shukla, an anesthesiologist based in the Hudson Valley, an area still reeling from the first COVID-19 wave. “When COVID-19 hit New York, around March, it felt like a medical tsunami. I felt like a soldier being sent to the battlefield without armor to protect himself, or the ammunition to fight.” The U.S. has now surpassed 300,000 deaths related to COVID-19.
This week, Shukla was part of a different first wave: he was among the first physicians to roll up their sleeve to begin their two-dose course of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, one of two vaccines approved so far by the FDA. The U.S. rollout under Operation Warp Speed prioritizes vaccinations for healthcare workers who are at high risk of virus exposure and residents of long-term care facilities during its initial phase. States are allotting the second round of vaccinations to essential workers and underserved communities. The U.S. has over 80,000 practicing Indian-origin doctors, and over 17% of U.S. physicians are Asian (vs. 6% of the U.S. population).