State-employment vaccine mandate remains — but boosters for state employees will likely be incentivized, not required


                                                                                                                                        PHOTO CREDIT: State of Washington

Remember last summer when the state was acting like Oprah and giving away prizes to people for getting vaccines? “You get a game system!” “You get tuition!” “You win the lottery!” 

My teenage boys were disappointed it didn’t work out for me. It did for others. Washington state gave away more than $2 million in prizes as incentives for Washingtonians to get COVID-19 vaccines before the state’s “reopening.” It included a $1 million grand prize called the “Shot of a lifetime.” All you had to do to get in the sweepstakes was be a state resident and be one of the people in the state who had received a shot. 

I was reminded of the state’s bribing activity of 2021 when reading a press release from the governor’s office last week. It said the governor was updating his directive that boosters would be added to his vaccine mandate. Instead of requiring the boosters, the press release explained, “The updated directive reflects feedback and recommendations from state employees and labor partners to pursue options for offering incentives for COVID-19 boosters instead of making them a requirement.” 

June 30 Inslee directive made the vaccine mandate permanent and added a booster requirement for new and current executive and small-cabinet agency employees. That is the directive that was updated. The Office of Financial Management (OFM) was said to be in the process of bargaining with labor, and more information would be on the way regarding the incentives and their implementation. Read more in my blog here.

Prizes and incentives — not patient-centered health decisions

Given what we now know about COVID-19 and the vaccines’ limitations, some people are calling the governor's mandate and the booster addition a thinly-veiled political test. While vaccines and boosters help fight severe illness, after all, they do not stop the spread or contraction of the disease. 

Whether or not these employment requirements are some sort of political test, it’s disturbing that nothing has gotten in the way of Inslee insisting on his outdated vaccine mandate before this labor pressure — not the outcry of workers who lost their careers or suffering state service levels. Instead of patient-centered health decisions about COVID-19, made between doctors and patients, we have costly and coercive state giveaways.

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