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McConnell Defends Lawmakers Receiving COVID-19 Vaccinations Ahead of the Public

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As the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being shipped out to states around the country, first-line workers and elderly Americans are lining up to get vaccinated against the virus.

And they are not the only ones. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also receiving their first doses of the vaccine — including those who are not in high-risk categories for the virus. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered an explanation for why members of Congress are getting access to the vaccine before the general public.

“Well, look, in terms of the order of taking it, we were designated by a public health outside group because of continuity of government concerns,” he said during an interview on Fox News on Monday.

He continued, “Second, I think it’s important for the leaders in the country to step up, take the vaccine and help reassure the American public. Because polls indicate about half the public is either skeptical about taking the vaccine or doesn’t want to take it at all.”

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Politico reports that lawmakers were not expecting to be vaccinated so soon in the process. The outlet noted that lawmakers and staff were informed on Thursday that vaccinations would begin soon, with members of Congress being prioritized followed by “continuity-essential staff members.”

Such staff could include police officers and others who have helped keep the Capitol running during the pandemic. 

The Capitol physician, Brian Monahan, encouraged lawmakers to get their first dose of the vaccine in a letter. He wrote, “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,” he added.

Congressional leaders such as McConnell, 78, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 80, who are at higher risks for complications from the virus due to their age, were not the only ones getting their shots. Younger members were also receiving doses of the vaccine.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 31, streamed the process on Instagram, which drew the ire of some social media users. 

Even Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of the Demcoratic so-called “Squad,” took to Twitter to argued lawmakers should not be getting the vaccine yet. 

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“We are not more important then frontline workers, teachers etc. who are making sacrifices everyday,” she said, adding, “People who need it most, should get it. Full stop.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) called on her colleagues to avoid getting vaccinated until elderly Americans have access to the vaccine. 

Vice President Mike Pence received his first dose of the vaccine on Friday, as IJR reported. And President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose on Monday

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