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Governor orders most state employees get vaccinated

Series: Coronavirus | Story 356

Last updated 8/12/2021 at 10:21am

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday, Aug. 9, announced a requirement for most state workers, on-site contractors, and volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.

State employees, and workers in private health care and long-term care settings, will have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated.

Employees who refuse to be vaccinated will be subject to dismissal from employment for failing to meet legal job qualifications. The state will work with labor organizations on meeting collective bargaining obligations and adhering to civil service rules.

The requirement applies to state workers, regardless of teleworking status. This applies to executive cabinet agencies, but the governor encouraged all others such as higher education, local governments, the legislative branch, other statewide elected officials, and organizations in the private sector to do the same.

“It is the mission of public servants and those providing health care to serve our fellow Washingtonians,” Inslee said. “These workers live in every community in our state, working together and with the public every day to deliver services.

“We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection as well.”

The announcement comes as Washington is experiencing a severe increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations in every county, due to the delta variant, with the overwhelming majority of cases and hospitalizations being among unvaccinated Washingtonians.

The governor made the announcement at a press conference at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. He was joined by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Kaiser Permanente Washington President Susan Mullaney, Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, and Seattle-King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin.

“State employees, health care and long-term care workers are extremely pivotal in the fight against COVID-19, and we hope these steps will further our goal of getting as many people vaccinated,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, said. “We should all be concerned with the increases of COVID-19 cases in our state and we know that vaccines are our best tool to end this pandemic.”

This new requirement includes well-defined exemptions to the vaccine. Individuals with legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious reasons will be exempt. The exemptions do not include personal or philosophical objections.

To keep staff, families, and communities safe, there will be no test-out option for employees.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID is a public good. We have come so close to defeating this deadly disease,” Inslee said. “We have the tool – the vaccine – to get this era behind us. It is safe, it is effective, and you will never regret getting it.”


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