Republican lawmakers who downplayed coronavirus concerns face backlash over early vaccinations

With only limited doses available in the US, members of Congress have been given priority for inoculation in an effort to maintain government continuity on Capitol Hill. But some GOP lawmakers who have published their photos – something that public health experts have recommended promoting the vaccine’s safety – are vehemently disapproving, given their previous comments downplaying or misrepresenting the virus earlier this year.

This includes Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who tweeted Sunday that she had “received the first dose of the # COVID19 vaccine” on the recommendation of the attending physician’s office.

“I encourage all Iowans and Americans to do the same when their time comes,” she said. “Thanks to #OperationWarpSpeed ​​and the tireless work of Americans across the country, we are one step closer to beating this virus.”

But her early vaccination was quickly condemned on social media, with many pointing to comments she made in September during her successful reelection campaign that suggested health workers are blowing up the Covid-19 death rates for a profit.

A viral tweet from Sawyer Hackett, a senior adviser to former Housing and Urban Development Minister Julian Castro, posted Ernst’s false comments entitled “How it started” next to her photo receiving the vaccine entitled “How it goes”.

The backlash underscores a wider gap unfolding in Congress about when to administer the vaccine. In recent days, some lawmakers have vowed to wait to vaccinate until vulnerable groups in the US have the opportunity to be vaccinated as well.

Hawaii’s Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard tweeted earlier Monday, “I was planning to get the vaccine but will now show solidarity with our seniors by not doing this until THEY can. I urge my colleagues who are younger are then 65 years old and are healthy, on my own.

She joins Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) And Rep. Elect Nancy Mace (RS.C.), all of whom have said they are waiting to be vaccinated until other essential Americans have access.

Their report follows a memo from the Capitol’s attending physician who said a “small stock of vaccine” was available to Congress.

“Once we complete the vaccination of members, we will be pursuing a process over the next few weeks to identify key personnel in the various divisions of the Capitol community,” the memo said. “The appointment process will then continue until supplies of the small vaccine run out. A second dose planning process will then begin later.”

Some public health experts have stressed the importance of top elected officials receiving the vaccine as a way of communicating its safety to the American people. Famous lawmakers in both parties, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Have all received the vaccine in the past days as they advertised as a safe way to help end the pandemic.

And many in Congress are considered vulnerable to complications from Covid-19 because of their advanced age.

However, most Americans are denied access for months. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use for two vaccines, it’s clear that there won’t be enough for everyone who wants a vaccination right away.

Vaccine advisors have already divided the priority groups into subgroups and have designated only the very first people to receive vaccines. Among those in this 1a group designated by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices include primary care health workers and people in long-term care homes.

The limited supply for those priority groups has fueled investigations into some of the GOP legislators who received the vaccine.

Like Ernst, Senator Lindsey Graham – a close ally of President Donald Trump who has often repeated the president’s misleading reports about the coronavirus – has undergone significant convictions.

“Thank goodness for nurses who help those in need and know how to use a needle,” the South Carolina Republican tweeted Saturday alongside a photo of himself receiving the vaccine.

“Thank God for those who produced these vaccines,” he continued. ‘If enough of us take it, we’ll get back to normal life. Help is on the way. ‘

Graham has consistently defended Trump’s response against the coronavirus, and a U.S. Senate debate in South Carolina in October was forced to change formats after Graham had his opponent’s request for an additional Covid-19 test. rejected after attending a hearing with a lawmaker who later tested positive.

As a result, news of his vaccination drew thousands of critical responses, many from people saying they work in healthcare and haven’t been able to get a vaccine yet.

Senator Marco Rubio gave particularly harsh reprimands after tweeting a photo of him receiving the vaccine and noting that he is “so sure” that he “decided to take it himself.” The Florida Republican, who is 49 years old, spoke at a largely maskless rally for Senate games in Georgia last month.

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro took a particular issue with Rubio who joked on Twitter that he was “looking away from the needle” and knows he needs “a tan.”

“Something that really pissed me off – triggered me off that post was, you know, he started with a joke about how he looked away from the needle and how he needed a tan on his arm. You have the privilege that others don’t. You get a precious vaccine that millions are waiting for, “she told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on” Newsroom. “

“There are people on a daily basis who risk their lives and don’t get that vaccine yet, and you joke about your sticky white arm? For real?’

CNN has contacted the offices of Ernst, Graham and Rubio for comment.

President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on live television Monday afternoon, assuring Americans of the vaccine’s safety.

“We owe these people an awful lot,” said Biden, thanking those involved in the development and distribution of the vaccine and primary health care professionals.

While Vice President Mike Pence also received the vaccine publicly, a White House official told CNN earlier this month that it will not be administered to Trump until recommended by the White House medical team.

The official said Trump is still receiving the benefits of the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies he received during his fall from Covid-19 recovery.

CNN’s Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.