Maine’s congressional delegation has declined the coronavirus vaccine amid debate over whether politicians should receive it with initial doses largely reserved for frontline health care workers and older Americans.
All four members of Maine’s delegation said they believe the vaccine is safe and will get vaccinated eventually. But although the vaccine was recently made available to members of Congress, all four opted against receiving it for now amid shortages in Maine and nationwide.
Lawmakers have been among the first recipients of the new vaccine after the National Security Council recommended lawmakers be vaccinated in order to ensure the continuity of government. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, and outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican, were among the politicians to receive vaccinations on live television last week as part of an effort to highlight the safety of the shots.
The Office of the Attending Physician advised members of Congress to receive the vaccine, saying there was “no reason” to defer getting it. Congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, were vaccinated last week, along with some better-known rank-and-file members including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
But others have rejected the shots, arguing that health care workers and other groups should be a higher priority. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Tuesday they had elected not to take the vaccine right now due to national shortages.
“While we fully intend to receive this safe and effective vaccine, at this moment — when our home state is receiving fewer vials than originally anticipated — we believe the nation’s limited doses should be provided to healthcare workers and our country’s most vulnerable citizens,” the pair said.
A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, said he declined the vaccine for now because he thought limited doses should be given to people at a higher risk but intends to get vaccinated later. A spokesperson for Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, said the congresswoman planned to get vaccinated but was not sure when.
Under Maine’s vaccination plan, most members of the delegation would be eligible to receive the vaccine in the next two rounds. King, who is 76 years old and has fended off cancer three times, would likely be eligible in the next phase, which is expected to target individuals over the age of 75, while Collins, 68, and Pingree, 65, would likely be recommended to receive the vaccine in the phase after that. Golden, a 38-year-old Marine veteran, would fall in a lower priority group.
A spokesperson for Gov. Janet Mills said last week that the 72-year-old Democratic governor was waiting until health experts determined she was eligible for the vaccine but would consider receiving her shot publicly.