MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 15: A healthcare worker at the Jackson Health Systems receives a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from Susana Flores Villamil, RN from Jackson Health Systems, at the Jackson Memorial Hospital on December 15, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Jackson Memorial Hospital began the vaccination of frontline healthcare workers joining with hospital systems around the country as the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(NewsNation Now) — Hospitals around the country continued dispensing COVID-19 shots to their workers Wednesday in a rapid distribution effort of the first coronavirus vaccine authorized for emergency use.

“For the first time in a while, I feel hope,” COVID-19 intensive care nurse Amy Fry said after becoming the first worker at a Washington state hospital to be vaccinated. “It’s been a long, exhausting road.”

The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine Friday night and shipments began Sunday. Frontline health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are being prioritized as part of an effort to quickly inoculate those most at risk during the pandemic. It will be months before the vaccine is available to much of the broader population.

Operation Warp Speed held an update on coronavirus vaccine distribution Wednesday morning. You can watch the full briefing in the player below.

Health and Human Services and Department of Defense officials expressed confidence in the Pfizer vaccine as well as distribution efforts by the government.

This comes as a second vaccine is brought to the cusp of government authorization.

The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech’s and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19 but is easier to handle because it does not need to be kept in the deep freeze at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius).

Another weapon against the outbreak can’t come soon enough: The number of dead in the U.S. passed a staggering 300,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 112,000 people were hospitalized Tuesday, according to data complied by the COVID Tracking Project.

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The devastating toll is only expected to grow in the coming weeks, fueled by travel over Christmas and New Year’s, family gatherings and lax adherence to mask-wearing and other precautions.

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