WASHINGTON (AP) — The legislative branch of government is rapidly moving to receive the coronavirus vaccine, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi getting the shot on Friday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will “in the coming days.”
The top Capitol doctor is urging all members of Congress to join them, informing lawmakers Thursday evening that they are all eligible for the shots under government continuity guidelines. Dr. Brian P. Monahan asked members of the House and Senate to make appointments with his office to be vaccinated.
Pelosi received the vaccine at noon on Friday in Monahan's office, according to spokesman Drew Hammill. She had said Thursday evening that she was planning to receive the shot soon, and that “all Americans should have full confidence in the vaccines."
The speaker said in October that she does not like getting shots and even had a hard time getting her ears pieced.
“They have to talk me into the flu shot under great duress each year," she said. "But if it serves as a model to other people, yes, I would take the vaccine if it is approved by regular order.”
It is unclear whether all 535 members of the House and Senate will choose to get the vaccine. The effort comes as top U.S. health officials are trying to convince regular Americans who may be skeptical of the shots to get them and allow the country to rebound from the pandemic.
Only about half of Americans say they are willing to get the vaccine, according to a survey this month by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, despite a rigorous federal review process and health officials' insistence that it is safe.
Several other members of Congress have expressed an eagerness to get the vaccine, especially as an example to some of their constituents who may be wary. McConnell said that as a survivor of childhood polio, “I know both the fear of a disease and the extraordinary promise of hope that vaccines bring.”
Two senators, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Steve Daines, R-Mont., have been participating in the vaccine trials. But lawmakers are also reluctant to be first to be vaccinated so they’re not seen as jumping the line.
Pelosi is third in the line of succession for the presidency, after President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Pence received the vaccine Friday morning on live television, calling it a "a medical miracle.”
Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October, has yet to indicate when or if he will receive the shot.
Both Pelosi and McConnell said that they will continue to wear masks, socially distance and follow other health guidelines.
Monahan, the Capitol physician, said that his office will follow a process to identify “continuity-essential staff members” in Congress after members have been vaccinated. He said his office would continue with appointments “until the small vaccine supply is exhausted.”
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.