As the United States continues to roll out the Pfizer vaccine for health care workers and nursing home residents, a number of New England politicians said Saturday they have received their first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Washington upon the advice of their physicians.
Members of Congress received notice at the end of this week from the Office of the Attending Physician that doses would be made available to them as part of a ‘continuity of government plan,’ a measure put in place during national crises.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, both praised the vaccine as "safe and effective," while stressing the importance of continuing to wear masks and practicing social distancing.
Sanders said he received the coronavirus vaccine from the Capitol's physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.
“Following the advice of the Office of the Attending Physician, today I received the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine," Sanders said in a statement. "As the vaccine is being distributed, we must all continue wearing masks and engage in social distancing. That is how we will beat this virus and end this terrible pandemic.”
Also at the advice of the Attending Physician, Warren said she received the first of two shots of Pfizer's vaccine on Saturday.
"The vaccine is safe, effective, and will save lives," Warren said on social media. "The vaccine is a testament to all we can achieve when we listen to scientists, follow the advice of public health experts, and come together as a country."
Fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey also received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday. Warren said both she and Markey will continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Additionally, Warren said they will "work to make sure vaccines are made widely available and administered equitably to health care workers, essential workers, teachers, medically underserved communities, and the rest of our nation at no cost and as soon as possible."
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who represents Massachusetts' 7th Congressional district, said she was feeling well after receiving the first dose of Pfizer's vaccine. The congresswoman encouraged everyone in the community to take the first opportunity available to receive the vaccine in the weeks and months to come.
"I am grateful to the scientists, researchers, and frontline healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly over the last several months to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective,” Pressley said.
Pressley said she did not expect she would be able to receive the vaccine this soon and had actually been planning to receive it at a community health center in her district later in 2021.
When members of Congress were presented with the opportunity to receive the vaccine earlier, Pressley said she consulted with her family and her doctor before deciding to move forward.
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Pressley said she will continue to fight in Washington and Massachusetts to ensure that frontline healthcare workers, those behind the wall, essential workers, and the marginalized communities who have been hit hardest by the pandemic are able to access the vaccine rapidly and free of cost.
“As someone who has experienced how broken our healthcare system is firsthand, throughout this crisis I have been deeply concerned about equity issues in access to care, treatment and prevention. Healthcare justice is not a reality in America," Pressley said in a statement. "The inequities we see in our healthcare system are stark, and the research and medical community have deeply violated the trust of Black and brown people in America throughout our nation’s history. It is up to our research and medical institutions, our elected officials, and our collective public health response to make amends and earn the trust of communities of color as we distribute this vaccine and rebuild."
Pressley went on to say that families in her district are hurting, and that this pandemic has robbed them of loved ones and changed their lives forever.
"I remain in Washington fighting for a COVID relief package and I won’t stop fighting until we secure real relief and a just recovery for our communities,” Pressley said.
While a number of politicians took advantage of the opportunity, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu seemed to take issue with members of Congress having early access to the vaccine.
In a blistering tweet, Sununu said "it's ridiculous that Congress is cutting in line ahead of folks in Long Term Care."
Sununu said he will be first in line to get the vaccine -- when it's his turn.
"Do your job [and] pass a relief package or fire them all," Sununu said as lawmakers tried to tie a stimulus package to a federal spending bill that must pass by midnight Sunday, in order to avoid a government shutdown.
If Capitol Hill leaders manage to strike a deal to pass the new pandemic aid bill, direct payments of up to $600 per individual could begin this month.
While Sununu disagreed with politicians getting the vaccine before it was their "turn," Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire said she has received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Washington upon the advice of her physician. Kuster said she wants to demonstrate to Granite State residents that the vaccine is safe and effective.
"I believe in the science and I want to demonstrate to my constituents in New Hampshire that this vaccine is safe and effective,'' the Democrat said in a statement on Friday after getting the vaccine.
Kuster, 64, said she's been heartened to see thousands of frontline workers and those who are most at risk in New Hampshire get the vaccine.
Kuster also said she was also encouraged that Moderna had received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday, bolstering the number of available doses.
"I am also pleased that Moderna's safe, effective vaccine has now been authorized by the FDA and millions of doses will be distributed across the United States in the coming weeks," Kuster said.
The U.S. plans to distribute roughly 5.9 million doses of Moderna's vaccine to 64 states, territories and major cities across the nation next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report