Ilhan Omar says she won't get the COVID-19 vaccine immediately because Congress members are 'not more important' than frontline workers

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  • Unlike many other Congress members who are lining up to receive the shot, Rep. Ilhan Omar stated on Sunday that she won't be getting the COVID-19 vaccine immediately with other members of Congress.

  • Omar argued that lawmakers are "not more important" than the people "who are making sacrifices everyday," citing frontline workers and teachers.

  • "People who need it most, should get it," Omar said in a tweet. "Full stop."

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Unlike many other Congress members who are lining up to receive the shot, Rep. Ilhan Omar stated on Sunday that she won't be getting the COVID-19 vaccine immediately with other members of Congress.

Omar argued in a tweet that it's "shameful" for lawmakers to get the vaccine ahead of people she described as "making sacrifices everyday," particularly frontline workers.

"We are not more important," Omar said, adding: "Which is why I won't take it. People who need it most, should get it. Full stop." The tweet did not specify whether Omar intends to get vaccinated at a later time.

The congresswoman from Minnesota's decision differs from those of her colleagues on Capitol Hill who have already received the first doses of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration this month authorized two vaccines for emergency use developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, which are given in two separate doses in order to be effective.

Millions of shipments have rolled out across the country, with health care workers and nursing home residents among the first to receive them, as well as politicians. The moves mark a major step toward tackling the pandemic that has now killed more than 315,000 people in the US.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, last week encouraged lawmakers to get the vaccine and has started to administer it to several members.

"My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine," Monahan wrote in a letter to Congress on Thursday.

Omar's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The arrival of a vaccine has sparked a wave of public skepticism and hesitancy, building on misinformation and conspiracy theories spread about the coronavirus. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun publicly broadcasting and sharing photos of themselves getting the shot in an attempt to boost public confidence and quell uncertainty around the vaccine.

Among the long list of high-profile Congress members that have taken the vaccine include Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

However, members like Omar have announced that they won't take the vaccine with others in Congress and have come out against lawmakers being first in line to get the shot.

Sen. Rand Paul blasted Omar's fellow "Squad" member Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez for receiving the vaccine, which she posted pictures of on social media when she got it on Saturday.

"It is inappropriate for me - who has already gotten the virus/has immunity - to get in front of elderly/healthcare workers," Paul tweeted on Monday. "Same goes for AOC or any young healthy person. They should be among last, not first." (Though Paul did test positive for the virus in March, there is not enough scientific evidence yet to determine whether he has established long-term immunity against the disease.)

Other Congress members have echoed the calls and criticized their colleagues for supposedly "skipping" or "cutting" the line to get the vaccine.

"Congress needs to stop treating itself as a special political class, and 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," Rep. Brian Mast of Florida said.

The vaccine debate comes as lawmakers are rushing to pass much-needed economic relief to millions of struggling Americans, after more than eight months of delay. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the $900 billion stimulus package, which includes direct payments worth $600, on Monday evening.

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