Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center believes it is not OK to treat people who are unvaccinated as dangerous, selfish and unworthy of work
Washington Policy Center
State agencies are being required to mistreat a group of people in our state, and members of the Legislature’s majority party don’t appear willing to stop it.
Several bills proposed this legislative session address an outdated and misguided governor directive that won’t allow people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination to work in the state’s executive and small cabinet agencies. Those agencies include the Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol, both of which were hard hit by the vaccine mandate in emergency orders. A “permanent” vaccine mandate is now in place, and it applies not just to current and former workers, but to future workers, as well. That’s a problem for a state with workforce issues that harm service levels that taxpayers expect.
The Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard reports that 30 percent of the state’s total population has not completed a COVID-19 primary series. Excluding a good percentage of the state’s total population from being considered for these state jobs because they lack a vaccination that cannot stop the spread or contraction of a disease is more than problematic. It is indefensible, given all we now know about COVID-19 and the vaccines’ strengths and limitations. It is indefensible when we know that COVID-19 is most injurious and deadly to people in elderly, not working-age, populations. Lawmakers need to intervene.
How Gov. Jay Inslee was allowed to dictate this permanent vaccine mandate should also be concerning to all the state’s residents. Could the government mandate how much exercise state employees have? How much red meat they eat? What kind of car they can drive? The list of ways to keep a workforce healthier, as is being justified for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, is endless.
This unnecessary and discriminatory limitation on future employment would be eradicated with the passage of House Bill 1801. Other bills would deal with correcting some of the state’s past wrongs when it comes to the nearly 1,900 state workers whose careers ended because of the vaccine mandate, and I don’t expect them to go anywhere. But allowing prospective employees to be free of an outdated mandate should be appealing to all lawmakers. The elimination of the employment exclusion would also bring us in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which no longer differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in its policy recommendations.
People lost careers, family budgets were harmed and taxpayer-funded and -expected service levels suffered because of the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on state employment. That mandate, and the government’s clear disdain for the unvaccinated, also had a ripple effect on local governments, private businesses, families and communities.
It’s past time for lawmakers to stand up and protect this minority group of unvaccinated people in our state. It is not OK to treat people who are unvaccinated as dangerous, selfish and unworthy of work.
Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the 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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