COLUMN — First doses of vaccine have come to Virginia

Published 9:14 am Thursday, December 24, 2020

As of Friday, Dec. 18, the House of Representatives was still working to reach a final deal on much needed coronavirus relief. I am hopeful that after months of negotiations, Congress will soon reach an agreement in order to pass a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package for the American people.

Let me be clear, Congress should have passed COVID-19 relief months ago. The COVID-19 health crisis is surging, and small businesses, families and individuals need our help. There is currently a $900 billion package on the table that will provide a new round of stimulus checks, fund our healthcare systems, extend federal unemployment insurance benefits and supply more aid to businesses. We must come to a deal to provide relief to American families. This is my top priority.

Thanks to the hard work of doctors, scientists and Operation Warp Speed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two coronavirus vaccines in record time with more on the way. Following FDA approval for emergency use, the first doses of the approved Pfizer vaccine arrived in Virginia this week. So far, deployment of the vaccine is going well, and I am relieved to say that Virginia’s healthcare providers were among the first to receive this groundbreaking vaccine.

Friday, Dec. 18, at the recommendation of the House physician at the Capitol, I received the coronavirus vaccine. I did so with great confidence, as the coronavirus vaccine is safe and more than 95% effective. Any risks are far outweighed by the benefit of immunity to this virus, and I am confident that widespread distribution of this vaccine will be a significant step towards pandemic recovery.

While the early distribution of the vaccine is promising, please remain vigilant, wear masks and social distance when necessary. The people of Virginia have shown great resolve during the pandemic, and I appreciate all your efforts to care for our communities. As a result, Virginia has the sixth lowest infection rate in the United States. Let us continue to prioritize our safety by following CDC recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

During this tumultuous time for our nation, it is also critical to provide support for our military servicemembers and their families who sacrifice so much to keep us safe. Last week, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House with overwhelming support. The NDAA provides essential support to our military, includes a 3% raise for our troops, and gives our intelligence community the tools it needs to push back against Chinese and Russian aggression. Now that the NDAA has also passed the Senate, I urge the president to sign this legislation to provide crucial support for our national defense.

Denver Riggleman represents Charlotte in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached by visiting https://riggleman.house.gov/ or by phone at (434) 973-9631.