Suburban lawmakers say they'll 'wait their turn' before receiving vaccine

  • Illinois state Reps. Greg Harris and Justin Slaughter, both of Chicago, elbow bump May 23, 2020, as the House met at the Bank of Springfield Center, where lawmakers could spread out more than at the state Capitol.

    Illinois state Reps. Greg Harris and Justin Slaughter, both of Chicago, elbow bump May 23, 2020, as the House met at the Bank of Springfield Center, where lawmakers could spread out more than at the state Capitol. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/4/2021 7:59 PM

Republicans and Democrats in the suburbs haven't agreed on much about Illinois' handling of COVID-19.

But after Gov. J.B Pritzker added lawmakers to Phase 1B eligibility for vaccination, some concurred on one thing: They don't want to move ahead in line.

 

"There is no chance in hell I will jump the line as a 52-year-old very healthy individual," said Republican state Sen. Craig Wilcox of McHenry.

Democratic state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park said, "I am planning on waiting until it's my turn to go."

Pritzker said he also plans to wait, but his spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said Wednesday that lawmakers' move to Phase 1B came at the request of members of the General Assembly and was granted in the interest of dealing with the state's "urgent and vital business."

Phase 1B, with vaccinations now underway, is for people 65 and older and essential workers. Lawmakers met for several days in January, but both chambers have arranged reduced schedules conducted remotely in February.

Cullerton said while he appreciates that vaccination could speed up a safe return to work for lawmakers, he still would like to see police, firefighters, teachers and other essential workers get vaccinated before him.

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Democratic state Sen. Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights said she would not be using her status as a legislator to get the vaccine in Phase 1B and will instead wait until it is available to the general public.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a Democrat from Oswego, said she is leaning toward waiting but plans to make a decision after consulting her doctor -- something she said every lawmaker should do. Kifowit said vaccinating lawmakers is important to state government's ability to function.

All agreed that lawmakers who fall into groups considered more vulnerable to COVID-19 should get the vaccination.

How to make a safe return to Springfield during the pandemic has been a point of hot debate between Republicans and Democrats.

"(I am) very disappointed the governor changed his original tune," Wilcox said of Pritzker's decision to add lawmakers to Phase 1B.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Cullerton said in response to Republican criticism of Pritzker: "Politicizing COVID has been something that's been going on since the day it showed up in the United States, so the expectation that politicizing the vaccines would go away ... I would be amazed."

Kifowit found it ironic that Republicans who voted against remote voting in the legislature would also be critical of Pritzker's adding lawmakers to Phase 1B of vaccine distribution.

"They must not believe in the continuance of government like I do," Kifowit said. "I think that we need to get to work. We need to do everything in our power to make sure we can do the work of the people."

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