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.
I was asked about getting vaccinated with others in Congress:
It is inappropriate for me - who has already gotten the virus/has immunity - to get in front of elderly/healthcare workers.
Same goes for AOC or any young healthy person. They should be among last, not first.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 21, 2020
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.
Gee, maybe if the GOP hadn't spent so much time undermining public faith in science, masks,& COVID itself, I wouldn't have to weigh the potential misinfo consequences of what wld happen if leaders urged ppl to take a new vaccine that we weren't taking ourselves!
& @ me next time https://t.co/roMnvkyvoT
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 21, 2020
Our job is to make sure the vaccine isn't politicized the way masks were politicized.
If you actually listened to your constituents, you'd hear a LOT about viral claims about repro health.Ppl have ?s
Leaders shld show we won't ask others to do something we wouldn't do ourselves
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 21, 2020
The Congresswoman received widespread praise for yet another rebuttal to Republican talking points.
Hey @AOC I can't imagine how annoying and corny it must be, constantly targeted by the @RandPaul trolls of the world. But I have to say, I love the fact that you scare/intimidate them to the point that they can't stop referencing you. https://t.co/Hs9i1adJ2o
— T.M. Goeglein (@TMGoeglein) December 21, 2020
It's the “and @ me next time" 😂😂😂 https://t.co/lh0qchSMZk
— ⚓️NiCO ROByN🇭🇹 (@gigi_the_og) December 21, 2020
"@ me next time" y'all @AOC is a queen and I have nothing but respect https://t.co/zxXAFrKj8P
— ❄️Addy❄️ (@winespinster) December 21, 2020
They echoed her criticisms of Paul.
How many people tweet shot on a daily basis like “I'm not getting vaccinated until the politicians do" but now she's in the wrong for trying to convince people it's safe?? https://t.co/vJctMN4FOB
— Kakashi Hatake (@baeshar_who) December 21, 2020
I watched you on Instagram. I do plan on getting vaccinated And I learned some things that helped cement it for me. Thank you!
— Kate Ryan (@KatyRyanCT) December 21, 2020
Boosting public faith in the vaccine is exactly why I don't mind Congress members and others being in the first round. I just hope that the fact white house staff were vaccinated helps convince everyone.
— Sneakingfox (@Sneakingfox20) December 21, 2020
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.
Intersting how you call out AOC but not Rubio
— Kathleen (@Kyasuriin413) December 21, 2020
No need to shout out Rubio I see.
Looking forward to phonebanking on your opponent's behalf in 2022.
You have lost any credibility to legislate on behalf of Americans.
— Mary Michael (@MsMaryMichael) December 21, 2020
Why didn't you mention Rubio?
— Compete101 (@3BetDan) December 21, 2020
The vaccine isn't expected to be widely available until spring of next year at the earliest.