After a year defined by the pandemic that killed over 300 thousand Americans and upended daily life and livelihood in the United States, the first vaccines for the virus are steadily being administered.
Frontline health workers and the elderly are among the highest priority groups to receive the first doses, but they've also been extended to members of Congress, after the Capitol doctor urged elected officials to take it to ensure the continuity of government.
Like the virus itself, discourse around the vaccine has been fraught with conspiracy theories and outright lies about its effectiveness and safety, with far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson amplifying them to his millions of viewers. Meanwhile, far-right internet circles claiming the vaccine is a secret way for the government to implant microchips into its citizens.
To counter some of these rumors and other, more reasonable points of skepticism, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took to Instagram where she posted footage of her receiving the vaccine and answering questions about it from her millions of followers.
Ocasio-Cortez, whose passion for microbiology earned her a second place prize in an international high school science fair, explained to her followers how mRNA vaccines work and why it didn't put them at risk of contracting the virus.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tried to call out the Congresswoman's reception of the vaccine to justify his own decision not to take it.
Paul said that members of Congress should be among the last to receive the vaccine, with those most vulnerable to the virus receiving it first.
Senator Paul has frequently pushed conspiracy theories regarding the virus and railed against safety measures that would've slowed its spread. Paul's amplification of lies surrounding the virus contributed to a collective dismissal of its threat among the right.
He went on to say that Ocasio-Cortez and young, healthy people like her should be among the last to receive the vaccine.
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that skepticism of the vaccine—like the kind fomented by Paul himself—necessitated showing her constituents and Americans across the country that she had enough faith in the vaccine's effectiveness to take it herself.
The Congresswoman received widespread praise for yet another rebuttal to Republican talking points.
They echoed her criticisms of Paul.
They also noted that Paul didn't publicly rebuke his colleague, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)—who was also among the Congress members to receive the vaccine.
The vaccine isn't expected to be widely available until spring of next year at the earliest.