As COVID-19 vaccine disbursement has begun, the question arises of who deserves the first doses. While many agree that priority should go towards the most vulnerable, including the elderly and health-care workers, one group that likely was nowhere near the top of anyone’s list has jumped to the front of the line: politicians.
Public officials were granted priority, and several elected officials made use of their spot in line. While few would begrudge the 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or 78-year-old Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from being vaccinated, it was far more shocking when the 31-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted images of her receiving the shot on Instagram, before many health-care workers or nursing home residents had a chance at protection.
Several politicians share this frustration, objecting to the preferential treatment of elected officials and declaring their intent to refuse vaccination until far more vulnerable Americans can be protected. Rep. Jeff Van Drew stated, “I believe that seniors, healthcare professionals and frontline workers should receive the vaccination first. I will be receiving my vaccination as soon as the most vulnerable have already received theirs.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard turned her refusal into a call of action, stating, “As members of Congress, if you are healthy, if you are under the age of 65, join me in refusing to get the vaccine at least until the seniors and elderly Americans are able to do so.”
Gabbard told Fox News her decision was inspired by the many Americans like her 65-year-old aunt, who has underlying health conditions that place her at greater danger should she catch the virus. “This is really a matter of life and death for them.”
Sen. Rand Paul argued that the antibodies from his past case of coronavirus ought to place him farther back in line. He tweeted, “It is inappropriate for me – who has already gotten the virus/has immunity – to get in front of elderly/healthcare workers.” He further took aim at Ocasio-Cortez for her well-publicized video of receiving the vaccine. Paul declared that those who are young and healthy “should be among last, not first.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar also spoke out against her fellow squad member’s choice to get the shot before many far-more vulnerable Americans. Omar took to Twitter, declaring that members of Congress jumping the line is “shameful,” as politicians are “not more important then [sic] frontline workers, teachers etc. who are making sacrifices everyday.”
Rep.-elect Nancy Mace has not yet arrived in Congress, yet she is already doing better at serving the American people than many of her future colleagues. Like Paul, Mace has recovered from coronavirus, and therefore understands its severity. It is with this awareness, she says, that she seeks to protect “the most vulnerable.”
She tweeted, “Our frontline workers, our elderly, those with underlying conditions, those who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, all of those should receive the vaccine before Congress. I will get in line for mine when those with much greater health needs, get theirs.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would rather his parents and grandparents have access to the vaccine than himself. In his state, he opened early vaccine distribution to any resident over the age of 65, but will not take it himself before the elderly population gets full access. He said, “I’m an elected official, but whoop-dee-doo, at the end of the day let’s focus where the risk is.”
Rep. Ken Buck’s rejection of the vaccine pairs his concern for the side effects with a prioritization of the vulnerable population taking priority over “healthy persons” such as himself. While he praised the vaccine as a “miracle,” he told Fox News that he would not be taking it himself, because “I’m an American. I have the freedom to decide if I’m going to take a vaccine or not.”
Rep. Brian Mast took his criticism further than his fellow objectors, tweeting that “Being for the people must always mean putting the people before ourselves, which is why every single American should be able to access the coronavirus vaccine before any Member of Congress.”
He condemned Congress’s taking special treatment at the expense of those who they are meant to represent, stating, “the mere suggestion that Members of Congress are in any way more important than the very people who gave us the privilege of serving in Congress is appalling.”