Pelosi, McConnell receive COVID-19 vaccine
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Friday as members of Congress are starting to gain early access to inoculation from the virus.
Pelosi received the vaccine at noon on Friday, according to her spokesman. Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, personally administered the vaccine to the Speaker, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency and considered a priority for continuity of government operations.
“Today, with confidence in science & at the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician, I received the COVID-19 vaccine. As the vaccine is being distributed, we must all continue mask wearing, social distancing & other science-based steps to save lives & crush the virus,” Pelosi tweeted alongside photos of Monahan giving her the vaccine shot.
Today, with confidence in science & at the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician, I received the COVID-19 vaccine. As the vaccine is being distributed, we must all continue mask wearing, social distancing & other science-based steps to save lives & crush the virus. pic.twitter.com/tijVCSnJd7
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 18, 2020
Pelosi announced late Thursday that she would be receiving the vaccine after the Capitol physician’s office informed congressional leadership that members of the House and Senate are eligible for vaccine doses.
McConnell also received his vaccine from Monahan on Friday.
“Just received the safe, effective COVID vaccine following continuity-of-government protocols. Vaccines are how we beat this virus,” McConnell tweeted. “Now back to continue fighting for a rescue package including a lot more money for distribution so more Americans can receive it as fast as possible.”
Just received the safe, effective COVID vaccine following continuity-of-government protocols. Vaccines are how we beat this virus.
Now back to continue fighting for a rescue package including a lot more money for distribution so more Americans can receive it as fast as possible. pic.twitter.com/kSBhI3EzzM
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 18, 2020
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday that he expects to get vaccinated soon as well.
“I know they sent a letter. I will get it. I will take it. They’re going to schedule me and I’m going to go take it,” McCarthy told reporters.
Rank-and-file members of Congress are also starting to get the vaccine.
The Capitol physician’s office notified lawmakers on Thursday that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration approved last week, will be available 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,” Monahan wrote in the memo.
Monahan said that lawmakers will get the vaccine first, followed by “continuity-essential” staff in the Capitol complex.
Other lawmakers are also publicizing getting vaccinated. The offices of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) announced Friday that they would be receiving the vaccine later in the day.
Aside from being considered essential workers — a group prioritized for vaccination under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations — members of Congress face higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their frequent travel and interactions with other people.
Many lawmakers are also above the age of 65, putting them at higher risk of severe effects from COVID-19. Pelosi, for instance, is 80, while McConnell is 78.
Health care workers, a top priority group for vaccination, have also begun receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week.
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 lawmakers have been since November during the nationwide spike in the spread of COVID-19. Five House members revealed this week alone that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Congressional leaders are close to finalizing a long-stalled coronavirus relief package expected to total about $900 billion. The package is expected to include Paycheck Protection Program funding for small businesses, funding for vaccine distribution and another round of direct checks to individuals, among other provisions.
The coronavirus relief will be attached to a government spending package, but current funding runs out at midnight. Congressional leaders are discussing a short-term stopgap to avoid a government shutdown, but at least one senator is threatening to withhold consent to pass it unless more details are provided about the coronavirus relief proposal.
A few remaining sticking points are holding up a final agreement on coronavirus relief, including a GOP push to add language to the deal to shut down the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities, the size of the direct checks and funding for state and local agencies administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
— Updated at 2:12 p.m.