July 8, 2022

Nurse Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Nurse Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Source: @therealsandralindsay/Instagram

While the presence of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. may have been a heralded welcome and beacon of hope in the midst of a harrowing pandemic, let’s face it: if you were the first person to actually receive the vaccine, you probably would have been a little nervous. 

The person who volunteered to take on the role of receiving the first vaccine needed to be brave, selfless, trustworthy, and willing to share their experience to inspire others to take an important step toward the health of not just themselves, but an entire nation. So it’s not surprising that the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine was, of course, a nurse.

Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse from New York, was just that person and now, for her efforts in becoming the first person to receive a vaccine after it was authorized under emergency authorization and as a vaccine advocate, she has been awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor and the recipients of the award will be honored in a ceremony taking place at the White House on July 7.

Youtube video

Who is Sandra Lindsay?

Lindsay, who is active on Instagram as @therealsandralindsay, has 26 years of critical care experience and is a nurse executive with Northwell Health. Her journey to becoming the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccination was one of a nurse just doing what she felt was her duty—she simply signed up, along with many of her other colleagues, to receive the vaccine. In fact, NPR reported that Lindsay was surprised when she showed up for her scheduled time slot and was greeted with news crews and cameras. 

Lindsay shared images of her receiving the vaccine—the first American to do so—on her account, calling it a “significant milestone” and her journey to “do her part to put an end” to the “deadly” virus that continued to take lives and livelihoods. 

The moment was so historic that The New York Historical Society even preserved the vial her vaccine came from, her vaccine card, and her ID badge as part of a historical exhibit. “I hope these items will tell the story of what happened during this time in our history,” Lindsay’s words on the exhibit read. 

“I hope that people will take the time to honor those who have passed away from this devastating virus and to think of all those people and the life they left behind…History is very very important and 2020 is not a year that we would ever want to forget.” 

Source: @therealsandralindsay/Instagram

Lindsay also shared her thoughts and feelings about the enormous honor she was receiving on her account. “I am honored to be receiving The Presidential Medal of Freedom from The President of The United States @potus alongside some of the greats like Denzel Washington, Simone Biles @simonebiles, Meghan Rapinoe @mrapinoe, Gabrielle Giffords @gabbygiffords, and others who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity of this great nation!” she wrote on her Instagram. “It is significant for me and my loved ones but also for my @northwellhealth family, #nurses #women #womenofcolor #immigrants #jamaicans #americans #healthcareworkers #minorities #healthcare #presidentialmedaloffreedom #recognition #honor

Source: @therealsandralindsay/Instagram

From the start, Lindsay has been a representative of the nursing field, advocating not only for vaccination, but also for first and foremost, education about health—and never from a place of shame. “People need to feel love and not shame," she told the news outlet. 

Lindsay has also continued her work as an advocate for COVID-19 vaccination, and recently posted her receiving her 4th shot when she received a Pfizer booster. 

Source: @therealsandralindsay/Instagram

What the Presidential Medal of Freedom Means

Lindsay has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which the White House announced would be given to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

In total, 18 people received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for 2022, including figures like Simone Biles, Father Alexander Karloutsos—who is a Longer Islander just like Lindsay—, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and posthumous awards granted to Steve Jobs and John McCain. 

Source: @therealsandralindsay/Instagram

“These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith. They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities – and across the world – while blazing trails for generations to come,” the White House announced in a press release. 

Initially, Lindsay even ignored a call from the White House informing her of the honor. Like many of us, she believed she was receiving yet another spam call. But when she finally realized it was not a prank, she was flooded with emotion. 

"I was just overwhelmed with pride, joy, gratitude and just immediately thought about what that meant for others, for people who look like me — for young ladies, for black women, for immigrants, for Jamaicans, for Americans, nurses, health care workers, minorities," Lindsay told Good Morning America. 

Go to the top of page