PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kaiser Permanente announced it’s requiring health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but this does not apply to those working in Oregon.
A 1989 Oregon law makes it the only state in the country where it is illegal to require vaccinations. Other states with Kaiser Permanente health care workers — including Washington — can require workers to get vaccinated.
Kaiser officials said they are “working with the Oregon Health Authority and the governor to support vaccinations to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
Charles Boyle, Gov. Kate Brown’s deputy communications director, told KOIN 6 News, “Our conversations with stakeholders on this subject are continuing, including with Kaiser Permanente. In response to media questions on Friday, Governor Brown said she expected to announce a decision about vaccination and testing policies for health care workers this week.”
What Oregon and Washington hospitals say
Dave Northfield with the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said as COVID case continue to surge in the state, it’s time to change the state’s vaccination policy.
“Hospital environments should be as safe as possible. So that would mean vaccinating as many people as possible inside the hospital walls,” Northfield told KOIN 6 News. “That’s something that we firmly believe makes total sense during a pandemic, to give hospitals the option to do what’s best for their communities.”
He also said he believes there is a simple way to amend Oregon’s law.
“It’s the hospital association’s view that this law could be changed through a rule through the state writing a rule, giving hospitals the local option to require that their staffs be vaccinated short of a statewide mandate,” he said.
In a July 27 statement on their website, the Oregon Nurses Association said they believe “having nurses vaccinated against COVID-19 is critical to protecting our members, their families and our communities. … but we also believe that any mandates related to vaccinations must be the subject of negotiations between employers and represented workers prior to any policy change in a facility.”
Carrie Sauer, the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said they are urging hospitals across Washington to require employee vaccines.
“This is a big deal,” Sauer said. “We understand that vaccine requirements are controversial but we think it is the right thing to do.”
She said last year the WSHA board of directors took a really significant board action after extensive deliberation. They passed a resolution urging all hospitals in Washington state to require vaccines for their healthcare workers.
“I’ve said this before: people have said many times to us, ‘What can I do to support my frontline healthcare workers? I want to bring them cookies, I want to bring them pizza,'” she said. “And what we keep saying is, don’t get COVID. That’s the best way to support them. So at this point get vaccinated so you don’t get COVID.”