Vaccinations required for healthcare workers and long-term care workers

SPOKANE, Wash. — Healthcare workers are about to face a big decision if they want to stay in their line of work. Governor Inslee announced on Monday that state workers, private health care and long-term care workers are now required to be vaccinated.

Quite a few health systems in our region will be impacted greatly by the mandate. Just last week, we shared there was a COVID outbreak at the Spokane Veterans Home. As of Thursday, 10 veterans tested positive for COVID.

On July 29, only 43% of the staff at the Spokane Veterans home have been vaccinated. That leaves 57% of staff workers there unvaccinated, and now facing a tough decision.

“Our health care system is under immense strain as the delta variant is now at least 85% of our cases and our modeling shows that to be over 95%,” said Dr. Umair Shah, Secretary, Washington State Dept. of Health said.

That increase has pushed our state leaders to expand the vaccination mandate, beyond state employees.

“Additionally, we know vaccines are the key to help health care workers from being the very source of COVID-19 transmission in the patients and clients they serve,” said Shah.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health-Seattle & King County said, “No one should have to worry about getting COVID-19 from a  health care provider. Period.”

If these healthcare workers choose to go forward with that vaccine, they’ll have until October 4 to get the 2nd shot, so they meet full vaccination status by October 18.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin explained, “Requiring vaccination of health care providers as a condition of employment is absolutely the right thing to do to protect patients, and health care workers themselves, their families and our communities.”

Providence and MultiCare are already requiring the vaccine, but there are many private and state-run health facilities that will need to make changes fast.

The policy allows for limited exemptions. Those with legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs can apply for exemptions, and that does not include personal or philosophical objections.

A backlash to the mandate, coming less than an hour after the announcement. Spokane Valley Senator Mike Padden said, referring to healthcare workers, “They don’t deserve to be bullied and threatened into putting something into their body that they don’t want.”

Padden has called for legislation that would prohibit discrimination against people who choose not to be vaccinated for COVID-19. He says he’s not anti-vaccine, he just believes no one should be forced into vaccination.

4 News Now will follow this closely in the weeks ahead to determine how exactly health systems will navigate the change, especially at a time when our community as a whole is struggling to stay fully staffed, and successfully hire employees.

RELATED: More veterans test positive for COVID at Spokane Veterans Home

RELATED: Gov. Inslee announces COVID vaccine requirement for state employees, long-term care facility workers