Opinion: ‘We should not face the possibility of losing our jobs over a personal health care decision’

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance shares his views of Gov. Jay Inslee’s a new vaccine mandate for most state employees, private health care and long-term care workers

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance shares his views of Gov. Jay Inslee’s a new vaccine mandate for most state employees, private health care and long-term care workers

I upset a very good friend last week, a friend who I’ve had for at least 25 years. A friend I don’t agree with most of the time, but a friend I agree with all of the time. If you’re like me it’s likely happened to you in the last 18 months or so. In fact, if you’re anything like me, it’s probably happened to you many more times than just once. This pandemic has ripped us apart and I’m sick of it. 

Editor Ken Vance
Editor Ken Vance

The majority of this group of friends I’m speaking of have gathered in the fall for more than 30 years now for our fantasy football league draft. The lone exception was last year when we met virtually due to COVID-19. This year, however, we’ve made plans to return to an in-person gathering. In most of the past 30-plus years, the only time I’ve seen many of these friends in person is at this one annual gathering. We’ve often called it the best day of our year.

Our group has obviously aged. Most of us have health issues, common with men in their advanced years. I’ve been a little nervous about our upcoming gathering so I asked what I thought was a fairly innocuous question in a group text thread.

I’m as conservative and support freedom and individual rights as much as any of my friends in this league. I support your right to make your own decisions. I am an old man with comorbidities. I chose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. I would like to know if anyone planning on attending the draft has not been vaccinated so I can then make my own decision.’’

Immediately, the text responses came pouring into my phone. Every member of the league who responded, simply shared that they had been vaccinated. Except one. And, he was not happy with my question. I tried to explain that it wasn’t a loaded question. I didn’t care if there were members of the league who weren’t vaccinated. I wasn’t going to suggest that unvaccinated members shouldn’t attend, or needed to wear a mask or even social distance. I was simply going to use the information to make my own decision. If the overwhelming majority of us had been vaccinated, I would be comfortable attending. If a significant amount of those coming were not vaccinated, I would simply bow out and ask if I could participate virtually. I hope the issue I created gets resolved. I cherish my friendship with the person I upset.

The ironic thing is I have absolutely no idea whether or not the vaccine will save me or eventually kill me, or maybe it won’t have any impact either way. I really struggled with the decision. I asked virtually everyone I had access to before I made the decision. Finally, I decided the possible benefit outweighed the potential risk. I have never once suggested to anyone else that they should make the same decision I made.

I have essentially done everything our health officials have asked of us during this pandemic. For the most part, I have self quarantined. On the rare occasions I go out in public, I wear a mask at the appropriate times. But, I don’t tell others what decisions they should make. Again, I’m not convinced anyone really knows anything with certainty about COVID-19, including the effectiveness of masks and vaccinations. I’ve made my decisions for my own reasons and I have never once shamed anyone for making their own choices.

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new vaccine mandate for most state employees, private health care and long-term care workers. He referred to COVID-19 as “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.’’ I find that ridiculous. If it was true, and vaccines were indeed the simple, safe and effective solution, then why would the 70 percent of us who are vaccinated have any concerns about the 30 percent who are not?

Like many Washingtonians, I’m sick of the governor mandating our individual choices and taking away our freedoms. House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox (2nd District) and Senate Republican Leader John Braun (20th District) released a statement after Inslee’s announcement.

Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox
Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox

“Vaccinations can save lives and we have strongly encouraged people to get them. We have been vaccinated ourselves. But getting the vaccine is a personal health-care choice and should not be mandated by any level of government. Threatening to terminate someone’s job if they don’t comply with this requirement is heavy-handed and wrong. The governor should show humility, listen to those who have concerns about the vaccine, and look to provide other options – including incentives.

“Similar to past announcements, we learned of the governor’s decision from the media. Those impacted by his decision, and their state lawmakers, have again been prevented from having a role in this process. This is yet another example of why we need emergency powers reform. Other states have enacted limits on their executive branches, but Democrats in our state have been afraid to challenge Governor Inslee. Call a special session. Give the people a meaningful say in these decisions.”

My point is this. We don’t need our elected officials to mandate or legislate what we should or should not do. As much as they think they do, I have never been presented with evidence that they know more about what’s best for us than we do. And, even if they did, this country was founded on freedom and individual rights. We should not face the possibility of losing our jobs over a personal health care decision.

And, even though I evoked a negative reaction from a close friend recently with my question about who in our group was vaccinated, I am not in agreement with Gov. Inslee. I am not trying to influence your decisions or curb your behavior. I am simply seeking all the information I can gather to make the best decision for me. And I hope my friend can soon understand that I’m just living by the principles and core values that we share.

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