Gov. Inslee directs permanent COVID-19 vaccination requirement for state employees

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has directed a permanent COVID-19 vaccination condition for state employees, according to a new directive from Inslee.

“I am directing a permanent COVID-19 vaccination condition of employment requirement,” Inslee said in the letter. The governor says it’s to “address this continuing threat and ensure the health of our workforce.”

The directive orders that all new state employees must be vaccinated, including any additional doses or boosters, as directed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That will take effect sometime this fall.

All state employees who are currently exempt must also be fully vaccinated beginning July 1, 2023. However, accommodations will continue to be made for “disability-related” concerns and “sincerely held religious belief(s).”

The new directive is getting immediate pushback.

“I don’t think that’s right. I think people have a right to their choice. If they don’t want to get a shot because they’re afraid of it, they shouldn’t have to get a shot to keep their job,” said Judy Sangder, who lives in the Renton area.

“Right now with the economy and inflation, we really need to think about how we’re treating our people. People really need to provide for their families,” said Leana Tuifua, another Renton-area resident. “If you’re going to threaten people’s jobs at that point, it’s draining. It’s really draining,” she said.

In his letter, Inslee said, “I recognize the difficulties of implementing this Directive,” but he is also urging other agencies to follow suit. “I call upon our higher education institutions, boards and commissions, and other separately elected officials to consider similar requirements,” the governor said,

Both Seattle and King County currently have vaccination requirements for employees that require the first two initial doses, but not boosters. Spokespeople for Mayor Bruce Harrell and Executive Dow Constantine’s office say there are no plans currently to expand vaccination requirements.

The directive does not include workers in higher education. The state says it will also be bargaining with labor unions about the changes.