By: Mark Glennon*
A “continuity of government” exception is allowing every member of Congress to jump the line to get vaccinated ahead of the only groups who face material risk from COVID-19, which are primarily the elderly. Many in Congress have already taken advantage of the exception, including at least six from Illinois.
Better to call it continuity of avarice.
In Illinois, as in most states, the vaccine for now is available only to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. That group alone will likely take a month and a half to finish.
The next group to be vaccinated will be other frontline workers, then adults with high-risk medical conditions and those over 65 years of age. Following them will be certain essential workers and those with mild comorbidities.
Nobody knows, however, how many months it will take to reach and complete those next stages.
In the meantime, many members of Congress have already taken advantage of their unique priority and cut in front of all those groups.
The list of politicians publicly reported to have been vaccinated includes at least six from Illinois: U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Representatives Sean Casten, Lauren Underwood, Jesús García, Bill Foster and Robin Kelly.
There may be others from Illinois, but they are the only ones we have found reported.
Each of those officeholders is 65 or under so their chances death even if they got infected are well less than 1%. Survival chances are better than 99.5% for people even as old as 50 to 69, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Duckworth is 52. Casten is 49. Underwood is just 34, making her survival chances if infected far greater — 99.98%.
None of them to my knowledge has comorbidities that increase risk.
They cut in front of those who are at far greater risk, particularly those who are over age 70. Their chance of survival if infected is just 94.6%. One in twenty of them, in other words, would die if infected. Here are the full survival chances by age group published by the CDC:
Why is this allowed to happen?
“Members of Congress were offered the vaccine under continuity of government protocol starting last week,” explained Duckworth.
“Continuity of government.” Ah, yes, that’s the rationale.
To illustrate the absurdity of that rationale, bear with me for just a few more numbers by asking this question: How many members of Congress would have to get infected for the probabilities to say that one would die?
Answer: 200 – 37% of Congress — which is extraordinarily unlikely.** Sorry, but that is not a threat to the continuity of government. Not when the vaccines they are using would be far more likely to save more lives if deployed to those at greater risk.
The Illinois members of Congress who got vaccinated are Democrats but this travesty is bipartisan. Some of the Republican offenders from other states, including some who downplayed the virus, are reported here.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin also got the vaccine but, at age 76 and perhaps being the next Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s off the hook.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
**The fatality rate for their age group is 0.5% according to the CDC because the average age of House and Senate members is 58 and 62, respectively.