Washington requires COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, state employees

Citing the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the delta variant, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation Aug. 9 requiring that most state employees and all healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

The requirement applies to most state executive branch employees and on-site contractors and volunteers, along with public and private healthcare and long-term care workers, the governor said. These individuals must receive the final vaccine dose no later than Oct. 4 to reach full immunity by Oct. 18 to comply with the proclamation. Exemptions from the requirement are allowed for legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious reasons.

"State employees, healthcare and long-term care workers are extremely pivotal in the fight against COVID-19, and we hope these steps will further our goal of getting as many people vaccinated," Umair Shah, MD, the state's secretary of health, said Aug. 9 at a news conference. "We should all be concerned with the increases of COVID-19 cases in our state, and we know that vaccines are our best tool to end this pandemic."

Under the emergency proclamation, employees who refuse to be vaccinated and do not receive an exemption risk losing their jobs, according to the governor's office.

Mr. Inslee's office said there will not be a test-out option for employees, and the state will work with unions on meeting collective bargaining obligations and adhering to civil service rules.

The announcement in Washington state comes after the California Department of Public Health issued an order Aug. 5 requiring workers in healthcare to be vaccinated. California's order requires these workers to be fully vaccinated or receive their second shot by Sept. 30.

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