Washington State University is winding down the process for collecting proof of COVID-19 vaccination as more than 94 percent of employees have received the shot in compliance with the state.
The mandate imposed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in August replaced the existing vaccine requirement WSU announced for its faculty and staff in April. Both policies required employees to either get the vaccine, submit an exception or be fired.
While the mandates are similar in nature, the state’s policy includes different procedures for collecting and organizing proof of vaccination submitted, according to Dave Wasson, director of news and media relations at WSU.
He says some employees who provided proof under WSU’s previous policy had to submit it again under the new one. Human resources and other supervisors have been working to process all the information correctly.
“They should be getting to the end of that list,” Wasson said. “But they also have a group of people who’ve already initiated the vaccination process but are not yet considered fully vaccinated.”
In a news release earlier this month, the university shared that 2 percent of its approximately 10,000 full- and part-time employees are on leave until they can be considered fully vaccinated and return to the workplace. The 2 percent also includes employees awaiting exemption request determinations or whose vaccination status is still being verified.
Of WSU’s total employees, 3 percent received religious exemptions and 1 percent received medical exemptions. Applications for religious or medical exemptions were due Oct. 4.
All state employees were required to be fully vaccinated or have obtained an exemption by Oct. 18 and were prohibited from engaging in work after the deadline had the requirements not been met.
A small number of employees enduring special circumstances are also away from the workplace on extended leave.
“There’s a group within that category who are still working their way through the process,” Wasson said. “Those folks are not allowed, under the state’s rules, to work for the university.”
Depending on work classification, some employees may use paid time off until they’re able to submit proof of vaccination for COVID-19, according to Wasson.
The university also stated in the news release that formal separation proceedings had been initiated with 23 employees. Those separations are either a result of noncompliance with the state mandate or an inability to accommodate a religious or medical exemption in a way which would protect the health of the community.
“Someone could qualify for an exemption, but then the university has to decide — with the position that person has in the working environment — whether they’re able to provide a reasonable accommodation,” Wasson said.
In addition, there’s various classifications for contracts at the university including faculty, administrative professionals and classified staff, and they’re often dealt with in different ways.
“In many cases, they have different processes for separation,” Wasson said.
He said he’s started to see discussions at the university level about booster shots, but no recommendations have been made.
“We fully expect there to be discussions about boosters,” he said. “We just don’t know when that’s going to happen or what that’s going to look like.”
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