State must protect our essential workers from COVID-19

Hawkins banner image

January 18, 2021

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

In these beginning days of the legislative session, one of the most common questions of my office involves how and when people can get vaccinated for COVID-19. Unfortunately, that is not entirely clear because the governor and his administration are attempting to control who gets vaccinated across our state. Now that health care workers and critical elderly are successfully getting vaccinated, I believe strongly that our state should grant essential workers (school employees, law enforcement officers, and firefighters) immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccine alongside older Washingtonians. Protecting these workers from COVID-19 is absolutely essential to communities across our state. Any of these workers who wish to get vaccinated should have the opportunity to do so in the next phase. This makes sense considering that vaccines in some regions of the state have gone unused and additional vaccine supply is anticipated from the federal government

Department of Health’s current vaccine timeline

WA COVID-19 phases graphic

The state’s COVID-19 vaccine phases and timeline (released January 7, 2021).

Frustrated by “top-down” vaccine distribution

Seldom does a “top-down” approach to government works best. Unfortunately, that is what I have been observing by Governor Inslee and the state Department of Health throughout this pandemic and in the initial stages of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Instead of a “command-and-control” approach to pandemic response, the governor should allow for local control in the decision-making where our own elected officials, in close communication with our local health district, school districts, and health care providers, can make decisions. I called for this approach early in the pandemic and still believe it is the best course of action. This is especially so, in my opinion, for vaccine distribution. If the state allocates vaccines to the regions proportional to population and then allows local officials and health care leaders to coordinate vaccinations, I believe many more people all across Washington would be protected.

Vaccine needle held in blue glove

Two COVID-19 vaccines have received federal emergency use authorization (Pfizer and Moderna) with a third vaccine (AstraZeneca) in trials in the United States, and it is currently being administered in other countries, including England.

Push for school employee vaccinations statewide

I am incredibly grateful to our state’s essential employees, which is why I want each of them to have an early opportunity to gain access if they want to be vaccinated. Given my interest in this issue and my role as the ranking Republican member on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, I recently led an effort statewide to call for school employee vaccinations. Schools are foundational to communities across Washington and our lives will not resemble anything even remotely similar to normal until our school system is fully functioning. According to the Washington State Constitution, education is our paramount duty, so it makes sense to protect the very people who are helping to deliver this essential service, especially considering that many districts are resuming in-building instruction and these individuals will be indoors and no longer able to self-isolate. I even called on the governor and Department of Health to designate February 1 as a statewide “School Employee Vaccination Day” where local health care providers would be allowed to coordinate at the community level with their school districts. Rather than “over-think” the logistics, my suggestion is for districts to share employee lists with the health care providers and for employees to arrive, stay six feet apart while in line and wearing masks, present their identification cards, and get vaccinated. My January 11 letter and my call for a vaccination day received significant interest from television, newspaper, and radio outlets, as well as support from major statewide school associations.

Hawkins - KHQ interview image

KOMO News (Seattle) and KHQ (Spokane and Tri-Cities) featured my ideas for school employee vaccinations during their recent news broadcasts.

School employees deserve access to the vaccine

The first week of the legislative session is normally very busy, but for me it was made even more busy when I decided to take a stand for school employees. Not knowing if my ideas would even be considered, I was reassured by seeing statewide interest in the issue. Below are some of the links and media coverage related to my efforts.

Letter to Inslee, DOH on vaccinating ed employees

On January 11, the education committee leaders sent this letter to Governor Inslee and the state Department of Health secretary urging greater vaccine access for all school employees. So far, no response has been provided to me.

Not all first responders are vaccinated

While the governor is insistent on his Olympia-based directives related to vaccine distribution, not all regions of the state are progressing similarly in administering vaccinations. I acknowledge the challenge of coordinating vaccinations, but I believe it is often made worse by the state’s “top-down” approach and its limiting of flexibility at the local level. I am very thankful the health care providers in our region have been successful in getting our allocation of vaccinations administered, but the state should simplify things and provide more local flexibility in decision-making. One of the common misunderstandings is that all first responders statewide have been vaccinated, and that is not the case. In addition to our elderly citizens and school employees, all law enforcement officers and firefighters who wish to get vaccinated should also have the chance to do so. The importance of protecting these individuals was explained very well by our local officials in this Wenatchee World article.

2015 firefighters

Local firefighters supporting each other during the 2015 Chelan fires. Firefighters and law enforcement officers should also be prioritized for vaccine access.

Listen to my recent local radio interviews 

Each week during the legislative session, I call our local radio stations to participate in live interviews about the latest happenings in the legislative session. If you'd like to hear my most recent interviews, click on these links for KPQKOHO, and KOZI. You can also listen to my interview last week on KPQ's The Agenda show. 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 12th District state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000