Vice President Mike Pence received the COVID-19 vaccine on December 18.
The top two congressional leaders will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days as part of an effort to convince Americans the shots are safe and effective, and a plan to ensure continuity of government.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both said in separate statements on Thursday they were told by Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol physician, that the shots will soon be available to members of Congress and they will not hesitate to take them.
“As a polio survivor, I know both the fear of a disease and the extraordinary promise of hope that vaccines bring. I truly hope all Kentuckians and Americans will heed this advice and accept this safe and effective vaccine,” McConnell said.
“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.”
Pelosi said, “With confidence in the vaccine and at the direction of the Attending Physician, I plan to receive the vaccine in the next few days.” And, like McConnell, she vowed to continue to practice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines even after being given the vaccine.
“All Americans should have full confidence in the vaccines,” she said.
Politics live updates: Stimulus talks come down to the wire; Pence gets the vaccine
McConnell noted a recent Associated Press poll that found only about half of the country is ready and willing to get vaccinated. About one quarter of the respondents were unsure and another quarter said they would flatly refuse to take it.
“It is concerning that half of Americans feel this way,” McConnell said.
Experts estimate at least 70% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.
In addition to boosting confidence in the vaccinate, high-ranking government officials are at the front of the line for vaccinations to ensure that the federal government can function in the event of a national emergency.
The distribution plan for the federal government will follow a 2016 presidential directive that outlines which jobs are “national essential functions.”
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence received their vaccinations Friday. President Donald Trump, who survived a COVID-19 infection in October, has said he will get the vaccine though it is not clear when he will receive it.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have said they plan to publicly receive the vaccine to help assuage concerns.
Monahan informed all members of Congress they are eligible for the vaccine in a letter urging them to make appointments with his office.
“Once we have completed the vaccination of the Members, we will follow a process to identify the continuity-essential staff members,” Monahan said, adding that his office would continue with appointments “until the small vaccine supply is exhausted.”
Contributing: David Jackson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Last SlideNext Slide
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/12/18/nancy-pelosi-mitch-mcconnell-covid-19-vaccine/3955498001/