As the political fight over vaccinations continues around the country, CNN has learned that several members of Congress still have not been vaccinated despite having had access to the vaccine on Capitol Hill since December.
Through a House-wide survey and interviews, CNN has contacted offices on Capitol Hill to try to get a clearer picture about where gaps in vaccinations still exist.
CNN confirmed that 189 Democrats out of 219 in the House have been vaccinated. One Democrat confirmed he had not been vaccinated but planned to be and there were 29 Democrats for whom CNN did not receive responses.
CNN also confirmed that 53 House Republicans out of 211 have been vaccinated. Thirteen Republicans told CNN they have not been vaccinated even as many said they planned to be. CNN did not receive a response from 145 House Republicans.
The survey comes as health officials around the country are encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and as frustration mounts to restore the House, which has extended the length of each vote to allow for social distancing, to a more regular way of functioning.
With a low number of responses from House Republicans, CNN attempted to interview GOP lawmakers in the halls of the Capitol about their vaccine status. A handful of members told CNN it was a HIPAA violation to even be asked. HIPAA applies to health care providers, who are barred from sharing personal health information about their patients without consent, not to individuals who willingly share their information.
“Isn’t that a HIPAA violation?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said when asked about her vaccine status.
“I don’t know if should tell you,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said. “I am not going to answer that.”
“That’s not appropriate,” Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, chimed in as he overheard the question.
Later when Smith was asked about his vaccination status, he shot back, “The fact that you are asking them their health information, I think that is really unacceptable.”
Still, while CNN found that Democratic offices were far more forthcoming about their bosses’ vaccine status, a number of Republicans were equally passionate about getting themselves, their constituents and their fellow members shots.
“I talk about it a lot,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina who has been vaccinated, adding that he worked with his local hospital system to produce a campaign featuring him with his vaccine card, trying to set an example. “There are some people who are concerned about the safety, and I want to encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, said he believes it is important for members to do everything they can to try to make their constituents feel comfortable getting the vaccine – and that includes disclosing their own vaccination status.
“If we want the country to get better, we should say,” Burgess, who is a medical doctor, said of talking about lawmakers’ vaccine status. “The country is not going to get better till people get vaccinated.”
Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan blasted colleagues who had declined to get inoculated months after the vaccine had become available to them.
“The first thing I would tell them is to grow up. I mean, this is science, this is health, this is a national pandemic, and we’re trying to get work done here to deal with it. And the idea that because of their own political vanity, they are unwilling to do something that protects themselves, their neighbors, their families, their colleagues, to make some sort of a bizarre political statement, grow up. That’s what I’d tell them,” Kildee said.
‘We aren’t a privileged class’
Around the country, vaccine hesitancy has become a major obstacle for public health advocates trying to quickly get the country back to normal. In a CNN poll released earlier this month, 92% of Democrats said they had gotten a dose of the vaccine or planned to get one, while just 50% of Republicans said the same. In Congress, vaccines could be key to loosening safety restrictions that have made it harder for the House and the Senate to conduct regular business.