Vaccine Deadline Nears For WA State Employees

Sep 13, 2021

The CEO of Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth says 80% of her staff is Covid vaccinated, but a few have left their jobs over the vaccine mandate.
Credit Courtesy of Cascade Medical Center

Most Washington state employees face a deadline next month to receive the Covid vaccination they’ll need to keep their jobs. But Monday was an important day for some to stay on track in their quest to reach that goal.

Governor Jay Inslee is requiring state employees and workers in private health care and long-term care settings to be fully vaccinated by October 18. Dr. Christopher Baliga says that includes the waiting period after vaccination to reach maximum protection.

“The last date to accomplish that with the Pfizer vaccine is today. There are people, I think, that are waiting until later and are thinking that they can use the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Just remember that’s in short supply in the state and so, realistically, today may be the day," said Baliga, an infectious disease specialist at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle. He spoke Monday during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing.

He says employees hesitant to receive the vaccine may be waiting as long as they can to see how their employers will handle their exemption requests.

At Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth, Chief Executive Officer Diane Blake says 80-percent of her employees have already gotten their shots.

“We have seen some folks decide to get vaccinated and we’ve also had a few resignations. We are still concerned about staffing as we head toward October 19, but I think that we’re probably sitting better than some other rural facilities," she said.

Three unions representing Washington nurses and other health care workers released a statement Monday warning that the state hospital system is in serious trouble. The groups urged hospital managers to do more to retain current employees and recruit new qualified people.

The vaccination mandate a lso applies to K-12 and higher education employees and those who work at cabinet-level agencies in the state government.