Pelosi to get COVID-19 vaccine in ‘next few days’ as vaccination program begins for lawmakers

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she expects to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the next few days as an inoculation plan for members of Congress begins to take shape.

Pelosi said the Capitol physician’s office has informed congressional leadership that members of the House and Senate are eligible for vaccinations, which began to be distributed to health care workers this week.

“With confidence in the vaccine and at the direction of the Attending Physician, I plan to receive the vaccine in the next few days,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Even with a vaccine, I will continue to follow[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines by continuing to wear a mask and take other science-based steps to stop the spread of the virus,” she added.

Pelosi is second in the line of succession for the presidency, making the Speaker a priority for vaccination for continuity of government purposes.

The Senate president pro tempore, which is currently Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is third in the line of succession. Grassley tested positive for COVID-19 last month but did not experience symptoms.

Hours earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also announced that he expects to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days. And like Pelosi, McConnell reiterated that he will still adhere to mask and social distancing guidelines.

“Because of government continuity requirements, I have been informed by the Office of the Attending Physician that I am eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, which I will accept in the coming days,” McConnell said in a statement.

“Even with a vaccine, I will continue following CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and washing my hands frequently,” McConnell added. “I would strongly encourage everyone to continue following these important guidelines. It is the only way we will defeat COVID-19 once and for all.”

Rank-and-file members of Congress will also soon have access to the vaccine.

The Capitol physician’s office issued a memo Thursday informing lawmakers that the recently Food and Drug Administration-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be made available to Congress under “long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.” The Supreme Court and executive branch will also receive a number of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

“The small number of COVID-19 vaccine doses we will be provided reflects a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines as it is distributed throughout the country,” Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, wrote in the memo.

“My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine. The benefit far exceeds any small risk,” Monahan wrote.

Monahan said lawmakers would receive the vaccine first, followed by essential staff in the Capitol complex.

“Once we have completed the vaccination of the Members, we will follow a process to identify the continuity-essential staff members in the various divisions of the Capitol community in the coming weeks,” he wrote. “The appointing process will then continue until the small vaccine supply is exhausted. A second dose scheduling process will then begin later.”

Members of Congress are considered essential workers — a group considered a high priority for a vaccine under CDC recommendations — and face higher risk of virus exposure due to frequently traveling across the country and interacting with many people.

At least 42 members of the House and Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, while several others have tested positive for antibodies or had presumed cases.

About half of the cases among members of Congress have been since November alone as the nation experiences the height of the pandemic to date.

Just since Tuesday, five House members have revealed diagnoses for COVID-19.

One of those lawmakers who tested positive in recent days, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), voted on the House floor and delivered a speech hours before learning of his diagnosis. Wilson was wearing a mask in accordance with the requirement established by Pelosi and said that he does not feel symptoms.

Tags Chuck Grassley Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine Joe Wilson Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pelosi

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