Members of Congress to get COVID-19 vaccine in first round, physician says

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Members of the U.S. Congress will be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 with the distribution of the first tranche of vaccine doses, the congressional physician said on Thursday.

In a letter to members of Congress and their staff, Dr. Brian Monahan said he had been notified by the White House's National Security Council that Congress "will be provided with a specific number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations."

He said the "small number of COVID-19 vaccine doses reflects a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines as it is distributed throughout the country."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in separate statements they would be receiving the shot in a few days.

"My recommendation to you is absolutely unequivocal: there is no reason why you should defer receiving this vaccine. The benefit far exceeds any small risk," Monahan said in the letter.

He said once members of Congress are vaccinated, Capitol Hill staff members who are considered essential will be given the vaccine, and then it will be made available to other staff members until the doses run out.

The initial 2.9 million doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE began shipping on Sunday to hospitals across the country.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Himani Sarkar and William Mallard)