Vaccine requirements being discussed for state workers

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As COVID-19 cases rise and vaccinations slump in Hawaii, could mandatory vaccinations be next for state employees?

It’s something California and New York City are requiring for public workers, and Governor David Ige says he’s contemplating similar measures.

Currently, three COVID-19 vaccines have emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Many mandates have been shelved until full FDA approval of the vaccines, which President Joe Biden says he expects to come by the end of the summer or early fall.

“I believe FDA approval would certainly help to put our members at ease,” United Public Workers Deputy Administrator Bronson Silva said. “But there are still a lot of other factors that we need to consider directly in regards to this policy. The legality, the timeline the implementation, the process, the exemptions, the penalties, and whatever else the policy entails.”

UPW represents about 13,000 workers state wide including adult corrections officers. An occupation that’s been hit hard by the virus as staff members deal with outbreaks behind bars.

“Our union has a right to review the policy, ask questions,” Silva said. “Put it up for vote by our members. At this time we can’t speculate on how our members will respond to this policy. There are many questions to be asked. we’re making sure their rights as employees are protected.”

The Hawaii State Teachers Associaiton finds vaccine mandates for teachers problematic. It worries that it could lead to more staffing shortages.

“If you’re going to mandate that our staff get vaccinated basically you’re going to be pulling out some qualified teachers from the classroom,” HSTA President Osa Tui said. “Having long term substitutes again and that definitely does not work. We want a qualified Hawaii teacher for all of our students.”

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