Representative Ken Buck was asked on Friday about when he would receive the coronavirus vaccine given other members of Congress, such as Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, got the jab.
“I will not be taking the vaccine,” he told Fox News host Neil Caputo. “I’m an American. I have the freedom to decide if I’m going to take a vaccine or not and in this case I am not going to take the vaccine. I’m more concerned about the safety of the vaccine than I am the side effects of the disease.”
Mr Buck went on to state he was a “healthy person” like “most Americans” and thought that at-risk populations and healthcare professionals should be prioritised in receiving that vaccine.
“But I am not going to take a vaccine,” he said.
The announcement sparked a reaction from Dr Jonathan Reiner, the former medical adviser to President George W Bush during his administration.
“This is just ignorant, anti-vax, science denialism masquerading as libertarianism,” Mr Reiner said on CNN Friday. “The reason for a congressman to be vaccinated now is not simply to protect him from disease, it’s hopefully to protect his community from transmission. When you vaccinate someone hopefully you’re blocking the transmission of the virus and maybe most importantly now for a Member of Congress is to model the kind of behavior we want their constituents to adopt.”
Representative Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat, also challenged his colleague on this decision to publicly state he would not receive a vaccine.
“Freedom is cool. Freedom also lets Congress keep people out of the Capitol who wish to infect others,” Mr Swalwell tweeted when responding to the congressman’s announcement.
Mr Buck then replied to his colleague on Twitter, writing: “My point was at-risk individuals should be prioritised before members of Congress.”
But that message was conflicting with what was said during the Fox News interview. Mr Buck made it clear he had no intentions to receive the vaccine and thought “safety” was a concern, but in the same breath pushed for other people to receive the treatment.
The representative’s conflicting messaging continued when he tweeted that the announcement of Moderna receiving emergency use authorisation for its coronavirus vaccine was “great news” and he encouraged “frontline workers, healthcare professionals, and at-risk individuals to get the vaccine immediately.”
These contrasting messages comes as both Republicans and Democrat lawmakers begin to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence received the vaccine on camera on Friday in an effort to build public confidence. President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Dr Jill Biden, are anticipated to receive the vaccine next week.
Portions of the public remain wary, though, about receiving the vaccine – citing concerns about safety and government involvement. Republicans are four times as likely than Democrats to say they would never receive a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a ABC News-Ipsos poll.
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