Why are government officials first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Published on December 22, 2020

Videos of numerous U.S politicians getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine sparked considerable backlash among constituents throughout the United States. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine have been granted emergency use authorization by the F.D.A but are currently only being administered to select groups of high-risk individuals.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the government officials who got the first dose of the vaccine. She explained on her social media pages that government officials were allowed to get the vaccine as part of a “continuity of governance plan,” which Ocasio-Cortez said was a measure of national security. She answered questions about the vaccine and said she would providing updates on how she was feeling a few days after getting the first dose.

As Ocasio-Cortez says in her post, “I would never ask you to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself.” The two main reasons for government officials getting the vaccine is for national security and to instill trust in the American people that the vaccine is safe and important to take. These are both important reasons for politicians to get the vaccine, even if it may seem unfair that politicians that worked to spread misinformation about the virus throughout 2020 are suddenly receiving priority.

Senator Bernie Sanders also received the vaccine. Sanders noted one point of vital importance for the general public when the vaccine is more widely available. Similar to how politicians like Sanders worked hard to make sure that tests were free and widely available to Americans, Sanders believes the vaccine should be just as accessible.

Many people have wondered why government officials have been prioritized to get the vaccine ahead of front-line health care workers and essential workers. There was particular outrage aimed at certain politicians who got the vaccine that had a documented history of downplaying or denying the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Senator Joni Ernst was one government official who got the vaccine after previously spreading a conspiracy theory that doctors were profiting off of falsifying COVID-19 deaths. Ernst posted a picture of herself getting the vaccine on her Twitter page.

Twitter users were quick to point out the irony of Ernst’s post.

https://twitter.com/laurahubka/status/1340806074362945536?s=21&fbclid=IwAR0LVcBv2IvNDUAUdpWci1ovKVkxmg2QzxcivgfynJj5tqbiNUn_SFwvLvc

Florida Senator Marco Rubio also posted a picture getting the vaccine, and encountered similar outraged comments on his post. Rubio, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, played a role in downplaying the virus and encouraging widespread gatherings that likely led to a spike in cases in the United States.

Some felt it was still important for the public officials to post about their experiences with the vaccine, regardless of their previous stances.

Rubio followed up with another post defending his choice to get the vaccine, citing Dr. Fauci’s fear of widespread distrust in the vaccine.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also got the first dose of the vaccine. Some politicians like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar and several other Republicans and Democrats have declined to get the vaccine first, saying that they’ll get their doses after other high-risk groups get vaccinated first.

Katherine Stinson is an award-winning journalist and Staff Reporter at Grit Daily News, where she covers Texas and Southern states' startup and entrepreneurship news. Based in San Antonio, Texas, she also contributes to ScreenRant, Outlander TV News, and San Antonio Magazine.

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