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Inslee vetoes bill that could have blocked ‘critical need’ for vaccine incentives

UPDATED: Tue., May 18, 2021

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee during a news teleconference in July.  (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee during a news teleconference in July. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Businesses, local governments and the state will be able to offer people freebies or other incentives to convince them to get vaccinated against COVID-19, based on action taken Tuesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed legislation that theoretically could have banned such offers, even though he said he supported the bill’s overall goals.

The bill was designed to protect privacy and security of COVID-19 health data collected by entities other than health agencies and health care providers.

But the bill was broad and “covers other COVID-related information that was not contemplated at the time of drafting,” Inslee wrote in his veto message. It would likely ban businesses and government entities from offering incentives to people who need a little push to get vaccinated.

“The current critical need to incentivize every eligible person to become vaccinated is an issue that did not exist, and was not contemplated, at the time this bill was drafted,” Inslee wrote.

Early in the year, when the legislative session began, vaccine was in short supply and appointments for the shots quickly filled up. In the past month, however, the supply of vaccine has exceeded demand in many locations and health officials are looking for ways to boost the vaccination rate.

“We do have various incentive packages across the state,” Inslee said during a news conference Tuesday. The Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers are offering tickets as incentives, he added, other businesses have come up with special deals and the state has provided money to chambers of commerce to provide vouchers to local businesses to boost their sales.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board recently approved optional promotions for licensed bars and restaurants that would allow them to offer a complimentary beer, glass of wine or cocktail when a customer provides proof of vaccination between May 15 and June 30. The cost of a drink can be paid for by the licensee or an outside sponsor.

Inslee said he would work with the bill’s sponsors next year for a new bill to protect the health data.

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