State schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced Thursday that nearly 90 percent of public K-12 employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In an Olympia press conference, Reykdal repeatedly highlighted how the results of the governor’s vaccination mandate led to positive results and how school employees stepped up to support their communities.
“Our school employees are fully vaccinated at rates of 14-18 percentage points higher than the statewide average of vaccinated adults in Washington,” Reykdal said.
In Clark County, the two largest school districts — Evergreen and Vancouver — reported vaccination rates higher than the statewide average: 91.2 percent and 92.4 percent, respectively.
Among those employees approved for an exemption, the overwhelming majority was on the basis of religion, as opposed to a medical condition. Statewide, 9.6 percent of K-12 school employees received a religious exemption — an evaluation process that Reykdal said centered around the “presumption of the sincerity of employees’ beliefs.”
Accommodations for the remaining unvaccinated workers would feature enhanced personal protective equipment, regular testing or a change in job duties or location.
Reykdal said that students and school employees can expect to continue wearing masks in schools for the remainder of the year, saying it was the best way to stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s the ultimate exercise in trusting, believing and caring about your community,” he said.
With regard to the FDA advisory panel’s recent approval of Pfizer’s low-dose vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds, Reykdal said he would not rush to implement a mandate for students.
“There’s a difference between employees and employers,” he said.
A vaccine mandate could be implemented for next school year, he said, but he’d rather see this vaccine for younger children go through the full process of federal approval in the meantime.