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Some Washington workers choose vaccination against their wishes as mandate deadline looms

Monday was the last day state employees, health care workers and school employees had to get their COVID-19 vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state employee Julie Beavers hoped to avoid getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but on Monday, she decided she had no choice. 

Beavers is one of 60,000 state employees required to be fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 18, which means she needed to get her Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Monday, Oct. 4.

Employees who refuse to get vaccinated -- and who do not qualify for medical or religious exemptions -- cannot work for the state, under the proclamation signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in August. Inslee also included health care workers and all school staff under the vaccine mandate.

“I did look for other employment,” said Beavers, who got her vaccine at a clinic Monday. She said she has been hesitant to get the shot “because it hasn’t been out long enough."

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Beavers works for the Department of Licensing.

“It made me angry,” said Beavers. “It’s something I didn’t want to do. I wish they did more research on it and everything before they started making everybody do it.” 

According to the latest figures released by the state’s Office of Financial Management, 68% of the state’s 62,728 employees have been vaccinated. Those numbers were as of Sept. 20 and were 19% higher than the numbers from early September.

Most state agencies said they will allow employees up until Oct. 18 to provide proof of vaccination, but the Washington State Patrol (WSP) set a deadline of end of business on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

A WSP spokesperson thought the agency would be able to identify how many employees will be terminated by Wednesday.

Inslee's spokesperson, Tara Lee, said the governor’s office is encouraged by the numbers showing an increasing vaccination rate among state employees.

“We are hopeful that more state employees will choose to get vaccinated and remain in the workforce,” Lee said in an email Monday.

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