Congressional staffers received word Monday that they are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with the first wave of 1,000 doses focusing on ‘critical employees’.
According to an email sent to lawmakers by Congress’ attending physician Brian Monahan on Monday night, two staffers in every House member and senator’s personal office will receive the vaccine.
The vaccine will also be offered to four staffers of every committee chair and every ranking committee member.
It comes just a week after Rep. Ilhan Omar called out her colleagues for accepting a vaccine dose, calling it ‘shameful’ for politicians to be given priority over frontline workers and the elderly.
The United States currently looks like to fall far short of its original goal to vaccinate 20 million individuals by the end of the year, with only 2.1 million vaccinated by Tuesday morning.
Congressional staffers received word Monday that they are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with the first wave of 1,000 doses focusing on ‘critical employees’. Members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi pictured above, have already been offered a vaccine
Rep. Ilhan Omar called out her colleagues on Twitter for accepting a vaccine dose, calling it ‘shameful’ for politicians to be given priority over frontline workers and the elderly
Vaccine eligibilty being extended to congressional staff was criticized by Meghan McCain
According to an email sent to lawmakers by Congress’ attending physician Brian Monahan on Monday, two staffers in every House member and senator’s personal office will receive a dose
In Monahan’s memo on Monday, lawmakers were asked to put forward their nominations for vaccination depending on whose role helped ‘ensure the continuity of government’ and required ‘onsite presence’ or ‘in-person interactions’.
‘Employees who occupy positions determined to make them eligible for the vaccine under these standards will be and/or have been notified of their status separately and provided with logistical information regarding the process for scheduling an appointment for the vaccination,’ Monahan said.
‘We will continue to keep the House community informed of further supply of COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available on a wider scale,’ he added.
Congress had received a limited batch of vaccines when the rollout began in December.
Monahan at the time had suggested that some of these could go to staffers if supplies allowed.
His Monday night memo suggested that the current supply would allow for 1,000 staff to receive the two doses of the vaccine needed.
Yet the move to extend the eligibility on Capitol Hill to staffers has not been welcomed, as the nation remains behind in distribution
‘Assuming the response from our political elites is “let them eat cake” to our frontline healthcare workers who are apparently not as much of a priority to be vaccinated as congressional staffers,’ tweeted Meghan McCain.
‘Thousands of frontline healthcare workers, first responders and essential staff who are sacrificing their entire lives to help covid patients and keep America functioning have NOT been vaccinated but congressional staff will be,’ she continued.
‘This is shameful and everything wrong with America.’
‘Can’t imagine that DC politicians and their staffs getting vaccinated would ever result in any of them addressing this horrific pandemic and resulting economic & educational emergencies with even less urgency,’ wrote CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Critics of the extension of eligibility to staffers took to social media to voice their anger
Fox News Janice Dean echoed him, stating: ‘Because of course congressional staffers are cutting the line in front of those who literally risk getting Covid every day to ‘serve them’ and their needs’.
Democrat Christopher Hale added: ‘I would rather the elderly janitors who clean the Capitol and congressional buildings get it above the 20-something and 30-something Hill staffers.’
Members of the public were also angered by the decision to award congressional staffers a vaccine at this point in the distribution.
‘Gee, I’m glad that some Capitol Hill drone is getting the vaccine before my wife who works in a hospital,’ wrote Twitter user Peter Sullivan.
It comes after Rep. Omar voiced her disapproval at members of congress and senators being offered a vaccine ahead of frontline staff and the elderly.
House members and senators began receiving their first dose of the vaccine earlier in December with many of them sharing the experience on social media to encourage others to take the shot.
Omar tweeted her disgust, linking to a CNN interview she did earlier in the months when she argued White House staff also shouldn’t get the vaccine first
Senator Rand Paul singled out AOC for going ahead of elderly people and healthcare workers and insisted he wouldn’t take the vaccine yet because it would be ‘inappropriate’
Among them were Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Yet Omar argued that it was ‘shameful’, adding: ‘We are not more important,’
‘Which is why I won’t take it. People who need it most, should get it. Full stop,’ she wrote.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul also took issued with 31-year-old congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in particular accepting the vaccine.
‘It is inappropriate for me – who has already gotten the virus/has immunity – to get in front of elderly/healthcare workers,’ Rand tweeted.
‘Same goes for AOC or any young healthy person. They should be among last, not first.’
AOC hit back saying that it was important to ‘show we won’t ask others to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves’.
‘Our job is to make sure the vaccine isn’t politicized the way masks were politicized,’ she wrote.
AOC defended her decision and slammed the GOP for downplaying the pandemic and undermining ‘public faith in science, masks & COVID itself’, which she said has created a need for politicians to try to build confidence in the vaccine
Dr. Monahan agreed telling lawmakers in a letter to Congress that ‘there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine’.
And some public health experts agree it was okay to make politicians a priority for inoculation, given the crucial work the government needs to do to address the impact of the pandemic and other tasks.
‘It’s important for our government to be functioning well,’ said Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University´s School of public health. ‘We don’t want to risk governors and members of Congress getting sick and dying.’
Yet Jha has also warned that the country is ‘repeating all of the mistakes we made with PPE and testing all over again’ with the vaccine rollout.
‘The biggest problem is getting the vaccine from states into people’s arms … there just hasn’t been much planning there hasn’t been much investment,’ he told Good Morning America.
‘It’s been disappointing to see departments of health that are already stretched having to figure out how to get all these vaccines into people.’
The vaccine rollout to the NYPD has been among those hit by the slow distribution.
On Monday, it emerged that NYPD members will have to wait longer for a vaccination after an indefinite delay.
They were originally expected to begin receiving vaccinations from Tuesday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, just over 2.1 million Americans have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine as of Tuesday morning and 11.4million doses have been distributed to states.
‘It’s moving along, it’s cranking, the end of the pandemic is in sight, but we have a lot of work to do and literally thousands of lives depend on how well we follow the simple public health measures until the vaccine can be widely distributed,’ Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir told Good Morning America of the distribution on Monday.
‘We’re going to distribute another 4.7 million this week, so by the end of this week, in the hands of the states [will be] over 15.5 million doses.’
He also outlined how there would be a total of 20 million doses distributed by the end of the first week in January. Yet this falls far short of the original plan to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of December.
‘The pace is slower than what was stated, I think it’s probably realistic to think that the pace is going to be a little bit slower, especially as we try to move through hard-to-vaccinate populations next month,’ former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS on Sunday.
‘The idea that we’re going to get to 20 million vaccinations by the end of the year, that’s probably unrealistic at this point.’
The slow distribution rate has forced health experts to plead with the public to use mitigation measures such as social distancing and mask wearing after December already became the most deadly month of the pandemic.
Nationwide, there have been more than 19.3 million Americans infected with coronavirus and 335,051 deaths.