Gov. Inslee drops COVID booster mandate for WA state workers
SEATTLE - Questions are now being raised about Governor Jay Inslee’s reasoning for lifting the COVID booster requirement for state employees, including ferry workers and state troopers.
Inslee dropped the booster requirement in on Aug. 5, but said all state employees must still be fully vaccinated with the two-shot regimen of Pfizer or Moderna, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Just over a month ago on June 30, he made the booster requirement and any subsequent doses of future vaccines a requirement for employment. The Aug. 5 directive does not list the reasons why he made the change.
Emails to the Governor’s Office asking for an explanation went unanswered as of publication.
Both directives still emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted.
"Widespread vaccination is the primary means we have as a state to protect everyone," both directives read.
One difference in the Aug. 5 directive hints at instituting an ‘incentive’ to stay vaccinated and get boosted.
The new language reads, "I direct [the Office of Financial Management] to pursue options to incentivize all state executive and small cabinet agency employees to remain fully vaccinated with the most up-to-date vaccination, including any additional doses or boosters, as recommended by the CDC."
"I think the incentive is going to come in the form of compensation or a bonus," said Elizabeth Hovde with the Washington Policy Center.
She believes Inslee is feeling political pressure from labor unions, who have been using vaccinations as a bargaining issue.
"The governor is in negotiations now with labor unions, and that seems to be directing the course," said Hovde. "It’s not the fact that so many people have lost their careers because of the mandate."
She’s critical of vaccination mandates in general, believing it’s a personal choice and should not be made a condition of employment. The vaccines lessen the chance of severe illness, as well as transmission through exhaling, coughing or sneezing droplets containing the virus—the window for viral shedding, and general viral load, is reduced.
The surge in infections from the Delta or Omicron variants have called into question the effectiveness of vaccines reducing viral transmission.
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"What people who don't want to take the vaccines or boosters want is the end of the rule, not something to be negotiated or get incentives or not [get] incentives, this is about a personal health decision," she said.
She cites new numbers from local health departments on the current efficacy of vaccinations.
Of those reporting infections in the county over the last 30 days, 53.8% are not fully vaccinated, but 18.4% are fully vaccinated and 28.4% are boosted.