Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) slammed the prioritization of the COVID-19 vaccine for members of Congress, saying she won’t get the shot that’s being made available to lawmakers because it should first go to “people who need it most.”
Omar, a first-term lawmaker whose father died from complications of the coronavirus in June, tweeted Sunday that it was “shameful” that politicians are in line to receive the vaccine before workers on the front lines of the pandemic “who are making sacrifices everyday.”
A spokesperson for Omar’s office later clarified that the lawmaker believes Congress should get the vaccine ― but not before front-line workers.
Omar’s tweet prompted debate on the social media platform, where some hailed her stance and others suggested the Somali-born lawmaker should have received the shot to set an example. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes “vaccine hesitancy” among the Somali American community.
Omar’s announcement came in response to a question posed by journalist Anand Giridharadas, who’d asked if “our entire top political leadership” was receiving the shot “ahead of others because of their age or their importance.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also replied to Giridharadas’ question. She said “the actual answer” lies in a National Security Council policy from four years ago to establish “certain requirements for continuity of governance.”
“If it was within indiv power to ‘give’ the vaccine to someone else, I would!” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a second tweet. “But according to these protocols, there’s a chance it could have just been stored.”
“There’s also a real risk in this age of misinfo of how it would be weaponized if leaders refused to take it en masse,” she added.
Ocasio-Cortez documented receiving her shot Saturday on Instagram.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who downplayed the severity of the virus in the early days of the pandemic, was similarly angered by the prioritization of members of Congress to receive the shot, tweeting Monday that it was “outrageous” and “insulting.”
Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received their initial COVID-19 shots on Friday.
“Building confidence in the vaccine is what brings us here this morning,” Pence told reporters afterward.
President-elect Joe Biden received his first course of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday.
“I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine,” Biden said. “There’s nothing to worry about. I’m looking forward to the second shot. … This is just the beginning.”
This article has been updated to include a response from Omar’s office.
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