WASHINGTON — The top leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will be receiving the coronavirus vaccine this week, and Congress' attending physician has informed members that they are all eligible for the shots under “government continuity” guidelines.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.
Pelosi, D-Calif., is third in the line of succession for the presidency, after President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. McConnell, R-Ky., is not in the line of succession, but as majority leader, he is in charge of running the Senate.
In a statement Thursday, Pelosi said: “We must all continue to embrace testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing and social distancing as the vaccine is being distributed. 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.”
McConnell said that as a polio survivor, he is especially aware of the “extraordinary promise of hope” vaccines offer. He said he’ll continue to wear a mask and follow other health guidelines.
Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol physician, sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to make appointments with his office to be vaccinated.
“Once we have completed the vaccination of the Members, we will follow a process to identify the continuity-essential staff members,” Monahan said, adding that his office would continue with appointments “until the small vaccine supply is exhausted.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has more than 17 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Friday, the U.S. had more than 310,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 75 million confirmed cases with more than 1.6 million deaths.