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Rush Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Award a Congressional Gold Medal to Scientific Community for Development of COVID-19 Vaccines

September 17, 2021

61 percent of 1st District residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose; Rise of Delta variant points to importance of vaccination

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) that would award a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the contributions of all of those whose efforts led to the successful development of the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused once-in-a-generation damage to communities across the country, including in the 1st District, where we mourn the loss of at least 1,530 individuals to this horrific disease,” said Rush. “The development and widespread distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has saved countless lives and allowed us to begin moving forward from this public health emergency, which has deeply affected all of us and disproportionately sickened Black and Brown Americans.”

“To honor the incredible feat of medicine and science that the vaccines represent, and in recognition of the tireless efforts to deliver these vaccines to the public, I am proud to introduce legislation to dedicate a Congressional Gold Medal to those involved in the production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. A Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow, and the massive effort across the government and private sector that brought us these lifesaving vaccines is certainly worthy of this distinction. I encourage every eligible person who has not yet gotten the vaccine to do so as soon as possible — for yourself, for your loved ones, and for your community. I thank my colleague Rep. Katko for his partnership in this effort.”

The COVID-19 Vaccine Developers Gold Medal Act would honor the researchers, scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, and others around the world who worked tirelessly and collaboratively to develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The legislation also notes that COVID-19 vaccine development in the U.S. benefitted greatly from global cooperation, strategic partnerships, and collaboration with publicly funded agencies and academic research.

The text of the bill recognizes that the successful efforts of these professionals “shattered the typical timeframe for vaccine development and production from over a decade to less than 12 months” and “will have positive implications for future vaccine development, helping to combat new viruses [and] leading to improvements in health and well-being.” If this legislation is passed by Congress, the medal would be displayed by the Smithsonian Institution as a symbol to encourage participation in STEM professions.

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to those who have performed an achievement that has had an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized in the recipient’s field for years to come. The Congressional Gold Medal requires support from two-thirds of Congress. Fewer than 175 medals have been extended in the country’s history.

According to Harvard data from the beginning of September, 61% of residents in Illinois’s 1st District had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 57% were fully vaccinated. Congressman Rush has been outspoken in support of the vaccines and previously hosted a panel discussion addressing vaccine hesitancy and urging Illinoisans to get vaccinated. 

The full text of the COVID-19 Vaccine Developers Gold Medal Act can be found HERE.

Companion legislation was previously introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

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Issues:Health Care