Hospitals around the country who have been waiting months for the first doses rapidly scrambled to put together events after unknowns about the vaccine and its distribution made it difficult to perfectly plan for its arrival.
Some hospitals deliberately worked to spotlight the moment, picking a person — a Black or Latino nurse or doctor, a housekeeper — who would be among the first to receive the shot as a way to send a message to diverse communities about trusting the vaccine.
Others — like a hospital in Iowa that first vaccinated a health care worker who had a few upcoming days off, or a hospital in Pittsburgh that let staff members vote on who would get the honor — left the specifics of who would go first more to chance.
But each place was preparing for its own historic moment, the beginning of what they hoped would be the end of a pandemic that had devastated their communities. And in selecting who would be first, each sent a message in its own way about the importance of the vaccine — and recognized the courage of its medical staff.
That health workers in high-risk positions would go first was a common point of agreement through much of the country. An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended that health care workers should be among the first to receive the vaccine, along with nursing home residents and workers.
Hospitals, with their ability to store vials at subzero temperatures, were prioritized to get the first doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, which was the first drugmaker to get approval from the F.D.A.