A critical care nurse in Queens became the first New Yorker on Monday to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a massive vaccination program begins in the United States to end the pandemic. 

"The vaccine only works if the American people take it," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a video conference with hospital executives. "So every American has to do their part. It's going to take months before the vaccine hits critical mass. So, this is the light at the end of the tunnel."

The vaccination was broadcast live on a livestream released by Cuomo's office and Northwell Health, a major hospital network in the New York City metropolitan area. 

Cheers and applause erupted after the injection was completed. 

"You didn't even flinch," Cuomo said while watching on a split screen. 

The distribution of the vaccine comes, however, amid another year-end surge in the virus that so far has killed more than 300,000 Americans. 

New York is set to receive 170,000 doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and approved by federal regulators last week. A person will need two doses of the vaccine, which must also be kept at a cold storage temperature to remain effective. 

Among the first people to receive the vaccination will be nursing home residents and staff through a federal program. 

It's expected all New Yorkers will be vaccinated by September of next year at the latest and public health experts expect 70% to 80% of the public needs to receive the vaccine in order to return the economy to normal. 

The critical care nurse, Sandra, urged New Yorkers to get the vaccine.

I'm hopeful today. I'm relieved," she said. "I hope this marks the beginning of the end to a very painful time in our history."