University Hospital nurse Maritza Beniquez beamed and clapped her hands, as she became the first healthcare worker in New Jersey to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning.
Her 56th birthday.
"This is the best birthday present ever!" the frontline nurse said with state officials by her side. "I couldn't wait for this moment to hit New Jersey. I couldn't wait for this moment to hit the U.S... to have this vaccine."
University Hospital was one of six in the state to receive the Pfizer vaccine Monday, and an additional 53 hospitals in New Jersey were expected theirs later this week.
The shipments were part of the first wave Operation Warp Speed, a a federal partnership that helped bring the vaccines to healthcare facilities across the U.S. in record time.
Benitez's immunization marks the first of millions to come in the next six months for New Jerseyans, starting with healthcare workers.
"This is a day that we have been waiting nearly a year for, and while we know this isn’t the end, we are witnessing, at the least, a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
University Hospital lost 11 staff members to COVID-19, one last week. It treated more than 1,200 coronavirus patients, 269 of who died.
COVID-19 has claimed lives of more than 300,000 people in the U.S. since March.
“Without question, we are still in for several hard months and we are going to face stiff headwinds from this second wave, but now our heroic front line health care workers can begin to take care of their fellow New Jerseyans with a higher degree of confidence in their own protection."
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