Nurses describe their hope and assurance after being fully vaccinated against coronavirus

Nurse Sandra Lindsay receives the second dose of a Pfizer coronavirus disease vaccine, at Long Island Jewish Medical Center January 4, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. So far, only about 88,000 people have received the vaccine in New York. By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

(CNN) -- After receiving her second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, New York nurse Sandra Lindsay felt "like I've completed the marathon, closed the loop."

Lindsay, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, knows the US remains far from the end of the pandemic. But for her, "the burden feels definitely much lighter today," she told reporters Monday.

Health care workers have been among the first recipients of the roughly 4.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine administered so far in the US. As hospital capacity strains under recent case surges, those who are treating patients say they feel relief after being inoculated.

"You wouldn't send a police officer into a gun fight without a vest, and as a health care worker, this is my vest. This is my shield now. I am very happy. We need this. We need this to fight back," New Jersey nurse Maritza Beniquez, who is the first fully vaccinated health care worker in the state outside trials, said after receiving the second Pfizer vaccine shot.

By the end of the month, she will be 95% immune, she said, which is "the greatest gift I could have ever started the year off with."

Beniquez, a Latina who's among her family's first generation born in the US, says she can't wait until the wider public is inoculated "so things can go back to normal."

"A healing is coming," she told CNN. "It's coming to this nation, and it's coming in the form of a vaccine."

Helen Cordova, an intensive care unit nurse at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, said she has "a little more hope and that extra assurance" that her family will be protected as she continues to treat coronavirus patients.

"There's always that fear of 'Will I bring something home from work?' even if I take all the precautions," she said.

Cordova had been hesitant about her first dose of the vaccine but changed her mind after engaging credible sources, she told CNN at the time.

"I sought out information, I spoke to fellow coworkers, physicians, anyone that was an expert in the field within my access and tried to really get more information on the vaccine to make that decision," she said.

Lindsay experienced only minor symptoms from her first shot, averaging a normal body temperature and rating the soreness at the vaccination site as "level 1" pain, she said. She is not concerned about potential symptoms following her second dose.

"I don't discount anyone's fears because everyone has their own fears," Beniquez said, "but this vaccine is safe."

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