North Dakota’s GOP congressional leaders are mostly vaccinated, with both Republican Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kelly Armstrong fully immunized against the virus, their offices confirmed this week.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, his office said, is set to receive his first shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose in April.
North Dakota’s federal leaders are receiving the vaccine — and sharing their status— even as numerous other congressional leaders decline to share theirs. A CNN survey of House members could only confirm 189 of 219 Democrats’ immunizations, and 53 out of 211 Republicans. Numerous lawmakers did not respond to CNN’s request for vaccine status, leaving it unclear precisely how ready Congress is to return to regular order as the pandemic begins to fade.
In the Senate, the same CNN report showed that all Democrats have been vaccinated, as have “the vast majority of Republicans,” with five, including Cramer, who said they had not been vaccinated.
Those tacit endorsements — or lack thereof — could be increasingly important. Grand Forks Public Health Director Debbie Swanson said that, soon, vaccine supply could outstrip demand. That will mean that the pace of immunizations won’t be determined by a scarce number of shots any longer. Rather, it will depend on the willingness of average people to go get a COVID vaccine.
“The vaccines for COVID are safe and will help us return to a more normal life,” Swanson wrote in an email to the Herald. “Research has demonstrated that doctors and nurses are the most trusted sources of information on vaccinations. Efforts to ensure that patients can connect with their health care providers when they are undecided about COVID-19 vaccines should be supported.”
So far, though, North Dakota’s vaccine rollout has been among the fastest in the nation. A New York Times database shows that the state ranks in the top 10 for both the share of residents fully immunized, at 17%, and the share of residents with at least one COVID shot, at 30%. Within the state, Grand Forks County was recently ranked among the fastest distributors of the vaccine.
“Unsurprisingly North Dakota has been a national leader in vaccine distribution, and anyone who wants one should get one,” Cramer said in a statement his office provided to the Herald. A spokesperson for Armstrong’s office sent along a similar statement, encouraging all North Dakotans who want a vaccine to seek one out.
That language — encouraging a vaccine for everyone who wants one — differs slightly from the encouragement that President Joe Biden gave to Americans in a nationwide address. In those remarks, delivered March 11, he encouraged everyone, without qualification, to pitch in and get a shot.
RELATED: Read President Biden’s remarks here
“We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing the masks as recommended by the CDC,” Biden said. “...If we don’t stay vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track. And, please, we don’t want to do (that) again.”