U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the Windsor Republican who chairs the Colorado GOP, said Friday that he doesn't intend to take the coronavirus vaccine out of concern over potential side effects but made clear in an interview with Colorado Politics that he believes the vaccine will save lives, and he isn't suggesting others shouldn't take it.
Buck announced his decision during an appearance on Fox Business's Neil Cavuto show, telling the host he isn't going to take the vaccine "because I'm more concerned about the safety of the vaccine than I am about the side effect of the disease."
Members of Congress and Trump administration officials — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence — have begun receiving doses of the vaccine this week as millions of doses are being shipped across the country following last week's federal approval.
"I want to make it real clear we should absolutely celebrate the fact we have a vaccine," Buck said in an interview with Colorado Politics on Friday. "I want people to understand I think it’s great we have it for a lot of people that are at risk.
"It is going to save lives of health care workers and others who are at risk, and it should absolutely be taken by health care professionals who come into contact with the virus."
Stressing that he isn't an "anti-vaxxer" and has been immunized against various diseases, Buck said he wanted to be clear why he has decided against taking the new vaccine.
"I think there is a balancing test that we need to apply in this situation between the dangers of having COVID and the potential harm from a vaccine like this. I’m not suggesting that other people not take the vaccine, but I don't believe the government should mandate taking it."
Added Buck: "I feel very strongly that members of Congress should not jump the line before people who are at risk."
The 61-year-old former prosecutor said he's perfectly healthy and has fully recovered from a battle with cancer that concluded some seven years ago. He said he's been "diligent" about wearing a mask and has been tested for COVID-19 several times with negative results.
"I’m not out looking for it, either," he said. "Obviously, I interact with the public a lot, but I am careful."
Two of Buck's fellow members of the Colorado congressional delegation — U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and Ed Perlmutter of Arvada — announced last month that they tested positive for the coronavirus and were isolating.
Democratic state Rep. Kyle Mullica, who works as an emergency room nurse and received the vaccine Tuesday, blasted Buck in a statement released by the Colorado Democrats.
"Medical experts across the spectrum — including the FDA — say the vaccine is safe for public use," Mullica said. "As an ER nurse who has been treating patients with COVID-19, I argue that Ken Buck’s rhetoric is harming the efforts of healthcare workers — including myself — to get this virus under control. It boggles the mind that at a time when elected officials like Ken Buck should be part of the solution in encouraging people to get vaccinated when they are able to, Buck is instead choosing to indulge the anti-science and anti-vaxxer wing of the GOP and spread unfounded fears about the vaccine."
Buck announced Friday that he won't seek a second term as chairman of the state Republican Party. He was elected last month to a fourth term representing the 4th Congressional District, which covers Weld and parts of Douglas counties, as well as the Eastern Plains.