Opinion: Internal documents show discussion about giving some state workers $1,000 for getting a booster, Brandi Kruse reports

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center states how coercing people to get boosters with taxpayer dollars — and giving some workers who want boosters incentives for doing so — is ethically questionable.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center states how coercing people to get boosters with taxpayer dollars — and giving some workers who want boosters incentives for doing so — is ethically questionable

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Last week, I asked Gov. Jay Inslee’s press secretary for an update on what incentives were going to be offered, at taxpayer expense, to state workers who get COVID-19 booster shots. Mike Faulk told me, “Options are still being discussed. There aren’t details to confirm at this point.” 

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

There still aren’t details from the governor’s office about how the state plans to incentivize state workers to get boosters instead of requiring them, as outlined in a recent governor directive. But Brandi Kruse, host of the [un]Divided podcast, details that she was leaked internal documents between labor unions and the state that say some workers might be offered $1,000 for getting the shot.

Read more about how Inslee’s June 30 booster requirement became a booster incentive in labor negotiations here. Union negotiations shouldn’t be guiding public health policy, but they appear to be when it comes to boosters. The booster mandate should have crumbled all on its own.

While incentivizing COVID-19 shots is nothing new — our state went wild with incentives for getting vaccinated in 2021, after all — the ethics of the practice is debatable and the fairness behind the policy clearly questionable. 

Even the wisdom behind a booster-incentive program is knocked out by the number of boosted people testing positive for COVID-19. Vaccines and boosters don’t stop spread or contraction of the disease, and even boosted individuals can get sick and die with COVID-19. King County reports COVID-19 outcomes according to vaccination status and has consistently found that boosted individuals are testing positive for COVID-19 more often than fully vaccinated people. (See the numbers here. Fully vaccinated and boosted individuals do test positive less often than unvaccinated people.) 

It is time to follow the science and honor patient-centered decisions about COVID-19 vaccines. Coercing people to get boosters with taxpayer dollars — and giving some workers who want boosters incentives for doing so — is ethically questionable, will bring no demonstrable public health benefit and would be highly wasteful. It’s such a nonsensical idea one has to wonder if incentives are simply a plan to get like-minded public employees more money, not to get an already vaccinated group more tools in the fight against COVID-19.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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