Members of Congress will be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the coming days under the banner of continuity-of-government requirements as laid out by intelligence experts.
Capitol physician Brian Monahan said in a letter to members of Congress and their staff on Thursday that the White House’s National Security Council told him Congress would be designated “a specific number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.”
Monahan said that once members of Congress are vaccinated, “continuity-essential” staff members will be next in line. Remaining doses will then be made available to other staff members “until the small vaccine supply is exhausted.”
Spouses and family members will not be eligible to receive a vaccine from the congressional supply, the physician said.
The physician urged lawmakers not to delay getting the vaccine, even after President Donald Trump suggested on Sunday said he would not rush to get the COVID-19 vaccine, also tweeting at the time that people working in the White House should receive the vaccine “somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.”
“My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine,” Monahan said. “The benefit far exceeds any small risk.”
Vice President Mike Pence received the COVID-19 vaccine on live television early Friday, touting the vaccine’s rapid development and the beginnings of its distribution as a “medical miracle.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praised the vaccine in a floor speech Monday, before adding: “I will not skip the line.”
But both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued statements on Thursday confirming they would take the vaccine in the coming days with McConnell urging Americans to have faith in the vaccine and citing “government continuity requirements” for being offered the shot early.
Pelosi similarly noted that “with confidence in the vaccine” and at the direction of the attending physician she would get her first round of the vaccination in the next few days.
“It is imperative that we ensure that the vaccine will be free and delivered in a fair, equitable manner to as many Americans as soon as possible,” she added.
Here’s the most relevant part of Monahan’s letter, released by Pelosi’s office:
Availability of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID19 Vaccine for US Congress Continuity of Government Purpose
The Food and Drug Administration granted an Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 vaccine on December 12, 2020. I have been notified by the National Security Council that consistent with Presidential Policy Directive 40 (2016), Congress and the Supreme Court, along with Executive Branch agencies, will be provided with a specific number of COVID19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations. These requirements are focused on essential operations and personnel. PPD-40 establishes continuity requirements for the Federal Government and states that continuity actions for the Executive Branch should be undertaken in parallel with the Legislative and Judicial branches of government. The small number of COVID19 vaccine doses we will be provided reflects a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines as it is distributed throughout the country.
The following are some questions and answer format that may be helpful to inform your individual judgment about participating in this voluntary vaccination. 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.