NYC nurse Sandra Lindsay, who got 1st US COVID vaccine, among Medal of Freedom honorees

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NYC nurse Sandra Lindsay, who got 1st US COVID vaccine, among Medal of Freedom honorees

President Biden gave out the nation’s highest civilian award to 17 recipients Thursday — including Sandra Lindsay, a nurse from Quee

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President Biden gave out the nation’s highest civilian award to 17 recipients Thursday — including Sandra Lindsay, a nurse from Queens who was the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lindsay, the director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, joined champion gymnast Simone Biles, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, fellow New Yorker “Father Alex” Karloutsos and others at the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

During the ceremony, Biden said Lindsay had “poured her heart into helping patients fight for their lives” throughout the pandemic. 

“Sandra, as I told you before, if there’s any angels in heaven, they’re all nurses — male and female,” said Biden, adding that while doctors “let you live,” nurses “make you want to live.” 

Lindsay received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020 after the Trump administration pushed out vaccines through Operation Warp Speed. She went on to get her second shot on Jan. 4, 2021, becoming the first person in the US to be fully vaccinated against the deadly virus.

Ironically, one of the other honorees, actor Denzel Washington, was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony after testing positive for COVID-19.

President Biden gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 recipients at a ceremony in the White House on July 7, 2022.
President Biden gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 recipients at a ceremony in the White House on July 7, 2022.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
The recipients included Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay — the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The recipients included Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay — the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Sandra Lindsay receiving her COVID vaccine in 2020.
Sandra Lindsay receiving her COVID vaccine in 2020.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

Other recipients included gun control activist and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), prominent Donald Trump critic Khizr Khan, civil rights advocate Raul Yzaguirre, retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, former University of Texas at Brownsville president Dr. Julieta Garcia, Catholic social activist Sister Simone Campbell, civil rights activist Diane Nash, and civil rights lawyer Fred Gray — who represented both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Prior to giving Biles her medal, Biden joked that “I don’t know if you’re gonna find room” for the honor in her trophy case, which already contains 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.

Three luminaries were honored posthumously: Apple founder Steve Jobs, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Biden presenting the medal to gun control advocate and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Biden presenting the medal to gun control advocate and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Biden joked that gymnasts Simone Biles will need to find room for this medal among her 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.
Biden joked that gymnast Simone Biles will need to find room for this medal among her 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Biden honored Sen. John McCain posthumously and presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his wife Cindy McCain.
Biden honored Sen. John McCain posthumously, presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his wife Cindy McCain.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Biden spoke of McCain last, recalling that “we agreed on a lot more than we disagreed on.” 

“We used to argue like hell on the [Senate] floor, then go down & have lunch together,” he said. 

“I never stopped admiring John. I never said a negative thing about him in my life because I knew his honor, his courage and his commitment,” the president claimed. “That was John McCain.”

At one point, Biden said he was “the guy that encouraged John to run for office” and took credit for introducing the late senator to his widow Cindy, who was present to accept the honor on McCain’s behalf. 

Biden putting the medal on soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Biden putting the medal on soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Steve Jobs' wife Laurene Powell Jobs accepting the posthumous award at the ceremony.
Steve Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell Jobs accepting the award at the ceremony.
AP
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray was honored with the highest civilian for a career where he represented both Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray was honored with the highest civilian for a career where he represented both Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

After all the recipients had been given their medal, Biden stepped back to the podium and addressed the crowd once more. 

“This is America,” he said to applause, including from disgraced first son Hunter Biden, who was spotted in the front row.

Previous recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom include Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Julia Child, and Biden himself.

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