Pelosi, Hoyer, Pence All Receive First Dose of Coronavirus Vaccine
WASHINGTON – High-ranking government officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Mike Pence, began receiving their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine Friday, part of an effort to ensure the continuity of the government and reassure hesitant members of the public about the vaccine’s safety.
President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming first lady Dr. Jill Biden will get their first shots on Monday, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will get hers right after Christmas as medical experts have advised they stagger their first doses.
Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency, received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at about noon from Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician.
On Thursday, Monahan informed House and Senate leaders that Congress, the Supreme Court and Executive Branch agencies would be provided with a set number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.
Monahan said the move was approved by the National Security Council, which said the inoculations are consistent with Presidential Policy Directive 40 (2016), which establishes continuity requirements for the federal government and states.
“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,” Monahan wrote in a memo.
“My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine,” he added.
Aside from being considered essential workers — a group prioritized for vaccination under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — members of Congress face higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their frequent travel and interactions with the public.
Monahan said lawmakers would receive the vaccine first, followed by essential staff in the Capitol complex.
“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.
“The appointing process will then continue until the small vaccine supply is exhausted. A second dose scheduling process will then begin later,” he added.
Pelosi said even after being administered the vaccine, she would continue to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines by continuing to wear a mask and taking “other science-based steps to stop the spread of the virus.”
“We must all continue to embrace testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing and social distancing as the vaccine is being distributed,” the speaker said. “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 and that we accelerate its manufacture, including by invoking the Defense Production Act.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who received his first does of the vaccine immediately after Pelosi, strongly encouraged every American who is able to get vaccinated in the weeks and months ahead.
“Doing so will both save lives in our communities and help us emerge more quickly from lockdowns and closures so we can build back our economy,” he said.
He also echoed in the speaker in saying he would continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently, “and do my part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
“That is what we all must continue to do while the vaccine is being deployed around the country and across the world,” he said. “It is essential that we continue following the guidelines of public health experts, who have made it clear that such measures will still be required until a sufficient portion of the population has been vaccinated and community spread of COVID-19 has ceased.”
Earlier on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence was vaccinated on live television, and rank-and-file members of Congress also began getting the vaccine on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday he expects to receive the vaccine in the coming days.
Like Pelosi, he said he too would continue to follow CDC guidelines about wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and washing his hands frequently.
“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,” the majority leader said.
He went on to speak of his personal experience as a polio survivor, saying he fully understood the mixture of hope and fear any new vaccine brings.
“I truly hope all … Americans will heed this advice and accept this safe and effective vaccine,” he said.
As for President-elect Biden, he had said earlier this week that he didn’t want to “get ahead of the line” but he understood that it is important to “demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take.”
“When I do it, I’ll do it publicly, so you can all witness my getting it done,” he added.
At least 42 members of the House and Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, with about half the cases being identified since the November election.