BOSTON – Massachusetts Republicans are trying to raise money by shaming Democrats for allegedly jumping the COVID-19 vaccine line even though members of both major parties have received the vaccine under a federal allowance that refers to the importance of continuity of government operations.
In a Dec. 17 memo, Capitol Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan promoted the availability of the Pfizer vaccine to members of Congress and staff.
“I have been notified by the National Security Council that consistent with Presidential Policy Directive 40 (2016), Congress and the Supreme Court, along with Executive Branch agencies, will be provided with a specific number of COVID19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations. These requirements are focused on essential operations and personnel,” Monahan wrote five days after the FDA cleared the vaccine.
In a fundraising email Tuesday afternoon, state Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons didn’t mention any of the prominent Republicans members of Congress who have not only received the vaccine, but also publicized their shots on social media, as he tried to portray Democrats in a negative light.
“The audacity of radical elites! Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, along with representatives Richard Neal, Katherine Clark, Ayanna Pressley, and Jim McGovern, all announced that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine,” Lyons wrote. “They jumped the line ahead of those who need it most — our essential workers and our elderly citizens, who are BY FAR the most vulnerable to this horrible virus.”
Lyons attached a photo of Sen. Elizabeth Warren getting her shot, and went on to say Republicans have a plan to “hold these hypocrites accountable” and to allege that Democrats were “skipping the line to receive the first round of vaccines, so that they could go and spend the holidays with their families.”
In a Dec. 19 tweet, Warren, like other members of Congress from both parties, said that she was receiving the vaccine based on the “advice of the Office of the Attending Physician for the continuity of government.”
Lyons, whose party has lost ground in recent Bay State elections, left out any mention in his fundraising email of top Republicans who have received the vaccination, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sens. Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio.
“Just received the safe, effective COVID vaccine following continuity-of-government protocols. Vaccines are how we beat this virus,” McConnell tweeted Dec. 18, including in his pinned post a photo of him standing with Monahan. “Now back to continue fighting for a rescue package including a lot more money for distribution so more Americans can receive it as fast as possible.”
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, also tweeted Dec. 19 about getting his shot, including a photo in which he flashes the thumbs-up sign.
“Thank God for nurses who help people in need and know how to use a needle,” Graham tweeted. “Thank God for those who produced these vaccines. If enough of us take it, we will get back to normal lives. Help is on the way.”
Asked about leaving out any mention of Republican members of Congress getting vaccinated, a MassGOP spokesman did not address that subject and emailed another quote from Lyons attacking Democrats: “Our entire Congressional delegation of Democrats is constantly fixated on pitching themselves as class warriors, except in this instance, where they actually could have made a difference.”
While touting plans to speed up the process, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday warned vaccine distribution has fallen “far behind” original plans, said the toughest days of the pandemic still lie ahead, and predicted the U.S. will hit the “grim milestone” of 400,000 deaths before his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Because initial supplies of the vaccine are limited, most people need to wait to receive the vaccination if they want to get it. Frontline health care workers and long-term care residents and staff are among the only groups to have received the first dose of the vaccine so far in Massachusetts.
Other groups in phase one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccination plan, which runs from December through February, include police, fire and emergency medical services, congregate care settings like shelters and correctional facilities, home-based health care workers, and health care workers doing non-COVID facing care.
In phase two, aimed to begin around mid-February, adults with two or more comorbidities that create risks for COVID-19 complications would be first in line, followed by workers in fields such as transit, K-12 and early childhood education, sanitation, and grocery stores, then adults 65 years old and older and individuals with just one comorbidity.
The third phase, when the vaccine would become available to everyone else who falls outside those groups, is targeted for the April through June period.
Baker, who has been leading the virus response at the state level, on Dec. 8 addressed his own plans to get the vaccine.
“I have zero interest in cutting the line, okay. I’m not 65. I’m 64,” Baker, a Republican, said. “As I am able to get the vaccine, whenever that happens, I’ll be one of the first in line to get, it, but there are a lot of people who are going to be in front of me, and I’d much rather see us focus on them at the beginning.”