Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he had received his coronavirus booster shot on Monday, telling Americans that “mountains of evidence” show the vaccines are safe and effective.
The announcement came hours after President Joe Biden received his third COVID-19 shot live on camera and days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed booster shots for millions of people in the U.S. who received their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.
McConnell, 79, has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the coronavirus vaccine among GOP lawmakers. In a Senate floor speech Monday afternoon, he said it was an “easy decision” to get vaccinated given his childhood experience with polio before a vaccine was available for it.
“I’ve been a lifelong champion of vaccinations,” he said, adding that overwhelming evidence says the shots are safe, effective and dramatically reduce the odds of severe disease or death from COVID-19.
“They’re also how we stay on offense against COVID as a country,” he added, urging all Americans to speak with their doctors about getting vaccinated.
McConnell’s early alignment with Biden on vaccines was incongruous with much of his party until recently, when more Republican officials started publicly endorsing vaccines. He was an early advocate on the right hailing the lifesaving efficacy of the vaccine even as some of his GOP colleagues stoked vaccine hesitancy or stressed the importance of individual freedoms.
People 65 and older, residents in long-term care settings and people ages 50 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their second Pfizer shot, the CDC recommended last week.
People ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions or who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure may receive a booster shot under the same timeframe.
Federal authorization for booster shots has not been issued for the other two available vaccines, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said in a statement Friday that the agency would review recommendations for those two vaccines with urgency.