Gov. Inslee to have ‘further discussions’ about vaccine mandate for state employees

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state does not appear to be taking Oregon’s lead in repealing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.

Last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state’s nearly 40,000 employees would no longer be required to have a COVID vaccine as a condition of employment, effective April 1.

Following that decision, Washington state Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox called on Gov. Inslee to make a similar move.

“Other state leaders are realizing that we’re in a period of transition from addressing COVID as an emergency to learning to manage it as part of the new normal,” a joint statement reads. “We understand Governor Inslee has been reluctant to take Washington through that transition – but it’s time. We know the governor is doing what he thinks is best and doesn’t always like to follow the example of others. But what’s best now is to end vaccine discrimination in state employment. It would help solve current staffing problems, restoring services that are on hold or significantly delayed.”

“We urge the governor to trust the people of Washington by moving us even further forward and out of COVID limbo.”

When asked if his office has considered a like-minded decision as Brown, Gov. Inslee said Friday that while “today is not the day, … I think there can be a time for us not to have a vaccine mandate.”

“Republicans have, unfortunately, failed to help us for such a long period of time in dealing with this still deadly disease, and apparently they’re continuing on that track,” Gov. Inslee continued.

“They tried to stop us from saving lives by wearing masks. They tried to stop a way to get our people vaccinated so they wouldn’t die. And they’re just continuing on that track. Unfortunately, they have not been a positive force in this regard. We still have a deadly disease. We still have a very high incident rate in our state. We still have high hospitalization rates. So today is not the day to be removing efforts to keep our people safe.”

“That vaccine is just as important today and in the immediate future as it was a month ago because it still is just as deadly,” Inslee said. “And those numbers are still very high in our state today. We’ll have further discussions.”

Washington state’s vaccine mandate for state employees took effect on Oct. 18, 2021. The governor’s emergency proclamation that requires full vaccination against COVID applies to most health care, education, and state agency employees.