Virus Outbreak Washington

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, left, holds up a face mask as he speaks at a news conference, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, center, and Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, right, at the Capitol, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Inslee announced that Washington state is expanding its vaccine mandate to include all public, charter and private school teachers and staff, as well as those working at the state's colleges and universities. The Governor also expanded the statewide indoor mask mandate in place for non-vaccinated individuals to include those who are vaccinated. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

While Gov. Jay Inslee has repeatedly said how important it is for Washingtonians to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease, his unilateral vaccine mandates, which many view as a violation of fundamental freedoms, are shifting many of the people we represent from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine hostility.

To be perfectly clear, we believe in science and the science of vaccines. We have received the jab and encourage others to consider getting vaccinated for their own sake and the sake of our community.

That said, we strongly oppose using threats and coercion to force people into getting vaccinated against their will and better judgment about their own health and safety.

In a free country, we each have a right to decide our own course of medical treatment. After all, what choice could be more personal than what a person chooses to inject into their body?

While the medical and public-health communities are clear that they believe the vaccines are safe and effective, they also agree that these extremely new vaccines are not completely without risk.

For example, on Aug. 20, U.S. health officials announced that they are reviewing new research data that indicates that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine may be linked to a higher risk of a rare heart condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that reports of myocarditis were higher in males and in the week after the second vaccine dose than would be anticipated in the general population.

A number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients experienced a dangerous blood clot in the brain, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). Women under 40 years of age were more likely to experience this side effect.

There are also some Moderna recipients who report experiencing severe allergic reactions, including inflammatory skin rashes.

While these conditions are extremely rare, they are real. And those who have reasonable concerns about these potential risks should not be dismissed as “science-deniers,” “ignorant kooks” or “conspiracy theorists.”

Encouraging and educating people as to the risks and the rewards of vaccines is a much more effective approach than trying to shame, ridicule and force them to get vaccinated by threatening their livelihoods and ability to provide for their families.

According to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 14% of American adults (or nearly half of those who are unvaccinated) will not receive the vaccine under any circumstance. An analysis of its polling during the pandemic found that government and corporate vaccine mandates are unlikely to change this group’s position — and is more likely to harden it.

Not only will the governor’s mandates not have the intended effect of encouraging people to get the shot, enforcement of his threats may also exacerbate staffing shortages the state is already experiencing in policing, nursing, childcare, teaching and among school bus drivers.

The governor’s position is extreme. He has pledged to fire every single category of employee he has designated, and refused to give those who don’t want the vaccine an alternative — not even regular testing. No governor has gone farther.

Once again, state lawmakers, and the Washingtonians we represent, have been prevented from having a role in this process. Similar to past announcements, we learned of Inslee’s vaccine mandate from the media, and were not consulted for input. The governor called a state of emergency more than 540 days ago. He is the only one with the power to end it, and he shows no signs of being willing to return to the regular democratic process.

This past session, the Senate’s majority party refused to advance Senate Bill 5144, which would protect the right of Washington residents to decline the vaccination.

They also failed to adopt SB 5039, which would expand legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency proclamations by setting a 30-day time limit on all proclamations unless extended by the Legislature.

Instead, the majority side adopted a resolution that indefinitely extended many of the governor’s reviewable emergency proclamations, sidelining our branch of government even more than we were already.

This one-person rule has to stop.

Legislative Republicans have called for a special session so that all Washingtonians can have a voice in these decisions through their elected representatives. Unfortunately, that too requires action by either Gov. Inslee or the Democrat majority.

Please consider sending your feedback and perspective to Gov. Inslee directly.

He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-833-6384 or online at: https://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message.

The choice to become vaccinated is a private, personal health choice, and should not be mandated by any level of government — let alone by a single individual.

We will continue to advocate for medical-privacy rights, the end to discrimination based on one’s personal-health decisions and reform of the governor’s unchecked abuse of his emergency powers.