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Bethel School District bus drivers threaten to walk off over vaccine mandate

Drivers say they're willing to leave their jobs if they're forced to be vaccinated.

Jessica Legg has a problem with Governor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

That is why she joined dozens of her fellow bus drivers with the Bethel School District to push back. Though the district may not be able to afford to lose any more drivers, Jessica says drivers are willing to walk away to make their point.

“It feels like a threat,” Legg said. “We’re already short staffed, but we’re also hiring, and we might be hiring even more after the 18th ... there are a lot of drivers who say they do not want this vaccine, and if it’s their job, they’re ready to walk.”

A major concern among Jessica’s colleagues is vaccine hesitancy, an issue that the Tacoma-Pierce County Heath Department is struggling to address with just over half the population fully vaccinated. According to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, vaccine hesitancy in Pierce County in early August remained one of the highest compared to other counties in the Puget Sound region. Between Aug. 6-12, nearly 9% of surveyed respondents were hesitant when asked if they would get vaccinated. Though hesitancy has decreased dramatically since January, when more than 32% of surveyed respondents were hesitant.

Despite the FDA fully approving the Pfizer vaccine, Jessica said it hasn’t been out long enough to make it a job requirement compared to other vaccinations.

“Those have had years and years of clinical trials and testing, and this one, unfortunately, has not. So for me, on my side of it, I would prefer to wait until the clinical trials are over,” Legg said.

At this point, it’s not about the vaccine itself, it’s about enforcement, Leggs added.

“I think, after more testing, people would be more compliant if there wasn’t a mandate, and they weren’t being forced ... that’s so far of a reach, and a stretch in the wrong direction, that’s not how you get things done,” Legg said. “If people want to have the vaccine, I’m totally fine with that. Everybody has the right to choose and that’s the biggest thing. You have the right to choose.”

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