RI congressmen respond to criticism for early COVID-19 vaccinations

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some members of Congress are getting pushback for already receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, which includes Rhode Island’s senators and representatives.

The criticism comes as many high-risk workers and nursing home residents across the country await their first dose.

Sen. Jack Reed took to social media over the weekend to say he was vaccinated to show others it’s safe.

But critics like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu are calling out lawmakers who got an early dose. In a tweet, Sununu said called it “outrageous” and “insulting” and accused them of cutting the line.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Colorado Rep. Ken Buck were among those who declined the vaccine, saying high-risk populations should come first.

The office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who also got the vaccine, released a statement saying he was following the advice of Congress’ attending physician.

“The National Security Council designated a specific number of vaccine doses for members of Congress. Congress’ Attending Physician strongly encouraged all members not to defer getting vaccinated, and refusal would likely have been used as anti-vaccination propaganda,” Senior Communications Advisor Meaghan McCabe wrote.

Chip Unruh, a spokesperson for Reed’s office, said the senator listened to his doctor’s advice.

“This was a decision made by the National Security Council and under the guidance of a Presidential Policy Directive, not Congress,” Unruh said. “After listening to the advice of his doctor, Senator Reed took the shot to help build public trust and demonstrate that it is safe and effective. He feels it is important to lead by example and urges President Trump to do the same.”

A spokesperson for Congressman David Cicilline confirms he too received the first dose of the vaccine based off of physician advice.

“Rep. Cicilline has followed the recommendations of doctors and public health experts throughout the pandemic, and will continue to do so,” press secretary Matt Handverger said. “He received the vaccine after the attending physician in the House requested that members of Congress be vaccinated.”

While Congressman Jim Langevin has not been immunized yet, his office said he intends to follow the same advice.

Dr. Kerry LaPlante, a professor of pharmacy at URI and member of the Rhode Island COVID-19 vaccine subcommittee, says politicians getting vaccinated now doesn’t have a profound impact on the overall distribution effort.

“I did some math on that. Just this month, 20 million doses went out all across America,” she explained. “About a thousand doses went to Congress. That’s .0005%.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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