Just over one week after granting lawmakers early access to the coronavirus vaccine, Congress’ attending physician Dr. Brian Monahan announced in an email to members and staff Monday that the shots would now be available to more than a thousand “critical” employees on the Hill, as well as certain staffers for each member.
The memo, first reported by Politico, cautioned that not all staffers should roll up their sleeves just yet, as the vaccine would only be available to those whose job duties “involve continuity of operations status.”
“Employees who occupy positions determined to make them eligible for the vaccine under these standards will be and/or have been notified of their status separately and provided with logistical information regarding the process for scheduling an appointment for the vaccination,” the memo read.
Two staffers in every House or Senate office will be made eligible, as well as four staffers of every committee chair and ranking member, amounting to more than 1,000 Capitol Hill aides in line to receive the shots.
Monahan said in the interest of keeping the government humming, the limited supply would go to staffers whose duties are essential to the “continuity of operations,” “require onsite presence,” and who “can reasonably be expected” to engage in “in-person interactions.”
“We will continue to keep the House community informed of further supply of COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available on a wider scale,” Monahan added.
While some in both houses of Congress have lined up to get the first of the two shots, others have refused early access to the vaccine.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), as well as Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), have all said they will refuse the vaccine until all front-line health care workers and seniors have been inoculated.
Some lawmakers have even traded barbs over whether Congress should have been granted early access, with Paul, Omar and Gabbard lambasting their congressional colleagues for broadcasting themselves being inoculated.
The “continuity of governance” plan allows them early access to the Pfizer vaccine because their health is considered vital to the federal government operating and for national security purposes.
Many in Congress, however, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), have argued that taking the vaccine early promotes vaccine confidence.