Rep. Ilhan Omar Says Members of Congress Shouldn’t Be First in Line for COVID Vaccine

Virginia Chamlee
·4 min read

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar

Democratic lawmaker Ilhan Omar says she won't get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine before someone else in greater need can get it first.

The Minnesota representative, 38, responded to questions from social media users regarding government continuity guidelines that allow lawmakers to be among the first to get shots of the new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

"It would makes sense if it was age, but unfortunately it’s of importance and its shameful," Omar wrote in a tweet on Sunday. " We are not more important then frontline workers, teachers etc. who are making sacrifices everyday."

She continued: "Which is why I won’t take it. People who need it most, should get it. Full stop."

Omar elaborated on the statement in an appearance on CNN earlier this week, telling New Day host Ana Cabrera that "our frontline workers who've made the sacrifice to make the country run should be the priority, people who've been disproportionately impacted by this virus should be the priority."

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The View's conservative co-host Meghan McCain applauded Omar's decision, writing that she "never thought" she would agree with the Democrat, "but when she's right, she's right."

"Why do healthy members of Congress get to jump ahead of the more vulnerable to get the vaccine," McCain wrote. "Is a Capitol Hill essential worker more valuable than people on the front lines & elderly?"

In a follow-up tweet, McCain, 36, wrote that the guidelines that allow lawmakers to be among the first to receive the vaccine was an example of "everything that is wrong with America."

"Those in power are considered more essential than medical workers, elderly and people on the front lines taking risks to keep our country functioning," she wrote. "Not to mention African Americans who are dying from covid at staggeringly high rates."

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The FDA announced an emergency-use authorization for the first coronavirus vaccine last week, and some of Omar's Capitol Hill colleagues have already received their first doses — publicly, in some cases, to attest to its safety.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who like Omar is a member of the progressive "Squad" in Congress, defended lawmakers' decision to get inoculated, writing on Twitter that it wasn't clear that the vaccine would simply go to the next person in line if a member of Congress was to defer.

getty images (2) Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and Ilhan Omar

"If it was within [individual] power to 'give' the vaccine to someone else, I would! But according to these protocols, there’s a chance it could have just been stored," Ocasio-Cortez, 31, wrote.

She also cited worries about conspiracies and misinformation around the vaccine: "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." Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have all said they would be vaccinated publicly to boost confidence.

President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading voice on the coronavirus, were vaccinated on TV this week.

According to a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, the attending physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, told members they "absolutely" should get the vaccine as soon as possible.

"My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine," Monahan said, according to the statement.

Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi, 80, were among the lawmakers to receive the vaccine last week, publicly documenting the process on Twitter.

"The COVID vaccine became available to members of Congress last night and we are urged to take it as part of a continuity of governance plan so I’m heading on my way there,” the New York representative wrote along with a clip of her receiving the shot. “Just like wearing a mask, I’d never advise you to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself."

National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot announced last week that senior government officials in all three branches would be prioritized for the vaccines, though President Donald Trump has since said that White House staffers will wait a while.