Are Missouri lawmakers cutting in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

“File:AP of Missouri State Capitol Building.jpg” by KTrimble at English Wikipedia is marked with CC0 1.0

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the world, vaccines give people the most hope for ending what has become a year-long struggle against the coronavirus. Several vaccines have been approved for emergency distribution in the United States, and states have begun implementing their vaccine distribution plans as more doses are produced.

Health officials continue to support that along with social distancing measures and mask guidelines, getting the vaccine to as many people as possible is the country’s best hope at controlling the spread of the virus. 

With the currently limited supply and distribution of the vaccine, states are slowly beginning to transition further into the different phases of their vaccination plans but still are fairly limited in terms of the people who can qualify to receive it. 

People across the country have expressed unease at the efficacy and safety of these vaccines, whose creation and approval have been expedited to unprecedented speeds. As a show of good faith and encouragement for the public, many of our country’s elected politicians have publicly received the vaccine. Recently elected President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have both received the vaccine in front of the press as well as other high-ranking officials in Washington DC.

Even within the individual states, high-ranking politicians like governors have received the vaccine in order to encourage their constituents to get the vaccine when they get the chance. Some people, even other politicians, critique those public officials who are receiving the vaccine before they technically qualify for the requirements in their state’s vaccination plan.

Especially at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, politicians across the country faced backlash for failing to control the pandemic yet still receiving the vaccine while frontline healthcare workers were still waiting for theirs.  States where some politicians are receiving the vaccine early try to defend that only those necessary to keep the government functioning properly are the ones being vaccinated.

This was not the case Jan. 27 when lawmakers of the Missouri General Assembly and their staff were informed that they were eligible to receive their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event supposedly being held for all state employees at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. 

About an hour after lawmakers had been told they were eligible to receive the vaccine, a notice was sent by Dana Rademan Miller, the chief clerk and administrator for the Missouri House, clarifying that the vaccination event was supposed to only include Missouri Department of Public Safety and Department of Transportation employees who were within eligible tiers for the vaccine. 

At this point, it was too late. Lawmakers had already flooded over to the hotel to get in line for their dose soon after the message was received due to recent outbreaks occurring within the Missouri House of Representatives.

Missouri is currently in Phase 1B Tier 2 of their vaccination rollout plan, which includes healthcare workers, first responders, emergency services, public health infrastructure, high-risk individuals and those over the age of 65. Most of the lawmakers do not qualify for the vaccine under these standards.

Many of the lawmakers who received the vaccine as a result of this misunderstanding are apologetic and have stated that they feel guilty for receiving the vaccine earlier than they should have, taking away vaccines from essential workers and other people who are at a higher risk. Although the recent vaccination controversy in the Missouri General Assembly was caused by miscommunication, some have raised concerns that people in positions of power could be abusing that power to receive the vaccine for themselves or for their family before they qualify, taking away important resources from higher-risk individuals.

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