Pelosi’s vaccination, viewed by the media, came just hours after Vice President Pence received a dose at the White House complex on live television in a bid to build public confidence in the safety of coronavirus vaccines.
Shortly after, McConnell, 78, tweeted that he had received the vaccine and included a photo with Monahan.
“Just received the safe, effective COVID vaccine following continuity-of-government protocols. Vaccines are how we beat this virus,” said McConnell, a polio survivor.
Earlier this week, Monahan said he would soon receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine to administer to Supreme Court justices and senior members of Congress under a continuity-of-government plan crafted by intelligence experts.
Throughout the day Friday at the Capitol, other members of leadership and rank-and-file lawmakers also received the vaccine. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in leadership, and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, were vaccinated.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a doctor, volunteered to get the shot and afterward encouraged his constituents to do the same when it becomes more widely available.
“After the incredibly challenging year we’ve had, I feel very blessed to receive this vaccine,” he said. “I hope that my decision to get it gives my constituents confidence in the safety and efficacy that have been demonstrated in the extensive trials.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) released a statement that he’d be receiving it at the recommendation of the Capitol Hill attending physician, and later tweeted a photo in which he was vaccinated.
“Grateful for the hard work from the medical community, gov. partners, and others who are working around the clock to deliver a safe & effective #COVID19 vaccine. It’s time for Congress to do its job and finish what our bipartisan group started by passing emergency COVID relief,” Romney tweeted.
There was some backlash to members of Congress being first in line for the vaccine as they remain at odds over a relief package for Americans struggling economically due to the pandemic.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) blasted lawmakers who received the vaccine before ordinary Americans, saying in a statement that, “Congress needs to stop treating itself as a special political class, and the mere suggestion that members of Congress are in any way more important than the very people who gave us the privilege of serving in Congress is appalling.”
But fellow Floridian, Rep. Charlie Crist (D), who got the vaccine, said he saw it as doing his part to slow the spread.
“This vaccine is a true medical miracle that signals the light at the end of the tunnel we have all been desperately praying for since March,” Crist said in a statement.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who also got the shot on Friday, acknowledged that he had received the vaccine before most Americans, but said he hoped doing so would encourage others to do the same.
In a statement Thursday, McConnell spoke about the importance of the vaccine and also encouraged Americans to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing as currently recommended by federal health officials. The Republican leader has taken several precautions amid the pandemic. In October, he said he hadn’t been to the White House in two months because of the lax use of face masks and social distancing there.
“Even with a vaccine, I will continue following CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing my hands frequently. I would strongly encourage everyone to continue following these important guidelines,” McConnell said in his statement
In a tweet after her vaccination, Pelosi wrote that she received the shot “with confidence in science & at the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician.”
“As the vaccine is being distributed, we must all continue mask wearing, social distancing & other science-based steps to save lives & crush the virus,” she added.
The vaccination issue has vexed some members of Congress since the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval for the Pfizer-manufactured vaccine last week. They have publicly expressed a desire to model good behavior and reassure the public that they should get the shots, but they have feared such a move would be seen as a special perk for members of Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a floor speech Monday, praised the vaccine, then added: “I will not skip the line.”
In a letter to McConnell this week, Monahan wrote: “Congress and the Supreme Court, along with executive branch agencies, will be provided with a specific number of covid-19 doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.”
Monahan’s letter eliminated some of the political concerns, as he cited national security reasons for providing leaders such as McConnell with the vaccine. These plans grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, and have been updated throughout the years.
Monahan cited a 2016 directive drafted by the National Security Council in the last year of the Obama administration.
“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 a second letter to congressional leaders, Monahan’s office spelled out that all lawmakers will receive the vaccine. “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.
Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to Pelosi asking her to establish such a vaccination plan.
“As an essential branch of government, it is vital that our institution returns to full functionality and that our members and essential staff are provided a transparent vaccination plan to not only ensure the continuity of operations, but the health and safety of our committed workforce,” Davis wrote to Pelosi on Tuesday.