Inslee booster mandate exacerbates current public health challenges

By ELIZABETH HOVDE  | 
Jul 1, 2022
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Key Takeaways:

  • Vaccines are helping with serious illness and death. 
  • People of working ages (who this directive applies to) are not dying from COVID-19 in a way that risks depleting hospital resources or state workforces.
  • Staffing shortages in the public sector and among health care workers have already been indisputably exacerbated by the governor’s vaccine mandate.
  • Anyone can spread or contract the disease with or without vaccination or boosters.
  • King County outcomes show boosted individuals are contracting COVID-19 in greater numbers than those who are “fully vaccinated.”
  • If the unvaccinated are a threat to public health, they will be threats whether they are state workers or not, but will also become more costly if unable to make money and pay taxes. 
  • This directive appears to be unjust discrimination.

Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a directive saying that to address the continuing threat of COVID-19 and “ensure the health of our workforce” there will be a permanent COVID-19 vaccination requirement for workers in Washington state's executive and small cabinet agencies. He includes the addition of boosters in that mandate and encourages other agencies to follow suit.

COVID-19 is serious, but it is no longer a public-health crisis. It has become like other viruses that we have to deal with and do so in reasonable and voluntary ways. This directive is not reasonable or appropriate. And it doesn’t serve public health or the state workforce. 

People of working ages — and they are who this directive applies to — have never been the ones dying from COVID-19 in a way that depletes hospital resources or state workforces. Staffing shortages in the public sector and among health care workers have been indisputably exacerbated by the governor’s vaccine mandate. Furthermore, the vaccines do not prevent the vaccinated from carrying and spreading the disease.

From Washington state ferry and highway workers to hospital employees and first responders, Inslee's vaccine mandate has ruined careers and family finances, and it has decreased expected service levels, for no demonstrable health benefit.

Simply put, it has not made us safer.

Now the governor is adding a booster requirement to part of the state workforce that could worsen service levels and increase the problems we are already seeing in our crime rate and elsewhere. 

The nation is moving into a recession (if it is not already in one), which makes this a poor time to restrict access to jobs. Besides, if you believe unvaccinated people are a threat to public health, they will be threats whether they work for the state or not. They also will become more costly if unable to make money and pay taxes. 

Right now, the vaccines appear to help with serious illness and death, but they do not stop COVID-19. You can spread or contract the disease with or without vaccination or boosters. Becoming vaccinated should be a patient-centered health care decision. 

King County outcomes actually show boosted individuals are contracting COVID-19 in greater numbers than those who are “fully vaccinated.” If they contract the disease more often, they would have a greater opportunity to get sick or die, even though you are slightly more likely to die if you aren’t boosted and more likely to die if not fully vaccinated. Again, death is unlikely all the way around for working-age people. 

We aren’t sure why boosted people have shown greater contraction rates than fully vaccinated individuals. And that's a huge point. Even if you are not in agreement that this is a patient-centered decision about your body that should be made free of coercion, we don't have enough information about the disease's pattern or the vaccines to be mandating anything. Adding boosters to the current vaccine mandate on some state workers — and permanently — is misguided and uninformed.

This directive appears to be unjust discrimination against people who aren't doing what the governor wants them to do. He should be making compelling arguments for vaccination instead of crafting mandates and directives.

I have contacted Inslee's office for further clarification on the reasoning behind this order.

Update: Public comment is being accepted on the booster-inclusive vaccine mandate during its rulemaking phase. If interested, submit written comments to Brandy Chinn at the Office of Financial Management, P.O. Box 47500, Olympia, Wash., 98501 or brandy.chinn@ofm.wa.gov by midnight August 3. Proposed rulemaking information is here: https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/rulemaking/rules_dev/WSR_22-14-104_CR102.pdf.

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