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1st COVID-19 vaccine vial used in the US headed to museum

The vaccine vial used for the historic first COVID-19 shot in the United States has been acquired by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Above, the COVID-19 vaccine vial along with a vial of diluent, which were donated to the museum by Northwell Health.
The vaccine vial used for the historic first COVID-19 shot in the United States has been acquired by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Above, the COVID-19 vaccine vial along with a vial of diluent, which were donated to the museum by Northwell Health. (Image credit: The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History)

When a New York nurse became the first American to receive a dose of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine in December, it was a moment that would go down in history. Now, that first vaccine vial is heading to a history museum, to be displayed in an exhibit planned for next year.

On Wednesday (March 10), the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History announced that it had acquired the now-empty vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine used for that historic shot, which was administered to intensive-care nurse Sandra Lindsay on Dec. 14, according to a statement from the Smithsonian. Other materials, including Lindsay's vaccination record card, scrubs and hospital identification badge, will also become part of the museum's collection, the statement said.

The materials were donated by Northwell Health, the New York health care system where Lindsay works. Northwell Health also donated other materials connected to the first vaccine doses, including the special shipping materials that were needed to maintain the vaccine at ultra-cold temperatures.

Related: Quick guide: COVID-19 vaccines in use and how they work

"These now-historic artifacts document not only this remarkable scientific progress but represent the hope offered to millions living through the cascading crises brought on by COVID-19," Anthea M. Hartig, the museum's director, said in the statement.

Since April 2020, the museum has been collecting artifacts to document the pandemic and its effects on society. Some artifacts volunteered to the museum include trash bags that healthcare workers wore when supplies of protective gear were low, and signs that people made to show support to their loved ones who were locked down in assisted care facilities, according to Smithsonian Magazine

The museum's collection already contains a number of historical items related to science and medicine, including penicillin mold from Alexander Fleming's laboratory and Jonas Salk's original polio vaccine, the statement said.

The museum is working on a 3,500-square-foot exhibition titled "In Sickness and in Health," which will feature items related to America's efforts to control and cure illnesses, such as objects from the campaign to eradicate smallpox, as well as objects from the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibit, which will also include the Northwell Health vials, is planned to open in 2022, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Originally published on Live Science.  

Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.