Gov. Inslee: State ‘not considering’ offering extension for worker vaccine mandate

Sep 24, 2021, 5:15 AM
Gov. Jay Inslee, Phase 2 rollback, vaccine mandate...
Gov. Jay Inslee. (Facebook)

Gov. Jay Inslee indicated on Thursday that he will not be offering an extension for Washington state employees to get fully vaccinated ahead of an Oct. 18 deadline.

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Inslee announced the mandate in early August, and in the weeks since has been negotiating with various state unions on the specifics. His office reached a deal with the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) — the largest union of public service workers in the state — in early September, but is still in the process of negotiating with other unions.

The definition of “fully vaccinated” accounts for the 14 days needed to build the requisite immune response after the second dose, meaning employees under the mandate should receive the second dose by Oct. 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Moderna vaccine requires that its two doses be administered 28 days apart.

That would mean the first Moderna shot for employees hoping to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 should have been administered on Sept. 6, at the latest. The Pfizer vaccine requires 21 days of waiting between its doses, with Sept. 13 having been the last day for state workers to receive a first dose. While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires a single shot, a nationwide shortage has had the state’s supply in question for weeks.

With the deadline for a second shot fast approaching, an agreement between King County and several of its own unions regarding an identical vaccine mandate has relaxed the previous timeline. Under that deal, county employees can avoid being fired for being out of compliance if they complete the vaccination process by Dec. 2.

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Gov. Inslee said Thursday that there will be no such option for state workers.

“We are not considering extending the deadline for vaccination of state employees,” he noted. “This vaccine is readily available and people have had a chance, and still have a chance, to get it.”

Inslee went on to clarify that there are “contingency plans in place” to fill staffing gaps for any state workers who leave their jobs over the vaccine mandate, but that he also remains confident the “vast majority” of employees will be in compliance.

“We believe that at the end of the day that people who’ve gone into public service, health care, and education will conclude that this is a healthy thing to do and not lose a career,” he said.

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Gov. Inslee: State ‘not considering’ offering extension for worker vaccine mandate