Senate, House and Supreme Court to receive Covid vaccine doses under continuality of government plan

The US Capitol is enveloped with mist on Wednesday as much of the East Coast braces for snow (AFP via Getty Images)
The US Capitol is enveloped with mist on Wednesday as much of the East Coast braces for snow (AFP via Getty Images)

The doctor overseeing the Capitol will receive coronavirus vaccine doses for all 535 members of Congress and nine Supreme Court Justices under a national security plan to be rolled out in the coming days.

The Capitol’s attending physician, Brian P Monahan, wrote in a letter urging lawmakers and their essential support staff to take the vaccine, which would take place in medical offices not in the public eye.

Mike Pence on Friday took the vaccine in a live broadcast in an effort to instil confidence in the safety of the vaccine.

“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,” Mr Monahan wrote.

“My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine.”

Senate Marjory leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have publicly stated they would take the vaccine. The Democrat’s most senior senator, Chuck Schumer, has is yet to commit to taking the first batch of vaccine.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Mr Schumer, 70, said he will take the vaccine as soon as it is appropriate and recommended.

“I will not skip the line. But make no mistake: we should all lead by example, commit to taking the vaccine, and tell our constituents to take it as well,” Mr Schumer said.

Senior officials of all three branches of government are at the top of the line of recommended vaccine recipients under the 2016 National Continuity Policy, according to a statement from National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot on Sunday.

“The American people should have confidence that they are receiving the same safe and effective vaccine as senior officials of the United States government on the advice of public health professionals and national security leadership,” Mr Ullyot said

Both Mr McConnell, 78, and Ms Pelos, 80, said they would accept the vaccine in the coming days.

“With confidence in the vaccine and at the direction of the Attending Physician, I plan to receive the vaccine in the next few days,” Ms Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night.

As speaker of the House, Ms Pelosi is the second in the line of succession for the presidency, followed by the Senate president pro tempore, Senator Chuck Grassley, who has already beaten a case of Covid-19 in recent weeks.

The vaccine to be administered to members of Congress, considered essential workers, will be the first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration from Pfizer/BioNTech, 100 million doses of which were purchased under Operation Warp Speed.

Mr Monahan said the small number of vaccine doses provided to his office would reflect a fraction of the first tranch of vaccines distributed throughout the country.

“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,” Mr Monahan wrote.

“The appointing process will then continue until the small vaccine supply is exhausted. A second dose scheduling process will then begin later.”

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