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Guest Commentary

Our seniors should receive COVID-19 vaccine before inmates!


January 7, 2021

OLYMPIA–Like many of you, I’m encouraged by the news in recent weeks that COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been approved by the federal government and that doses of these vaccines are being shipped throughout our nation, including doses delivered to Washington.

But I was unhappy to read a report earlier this week in the Spokesman-Review that inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane and the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center near Connell were receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

My anger over this isn’t necessarily because the inmates are getting vaccinated at all. Airway Heights, Coyote Ridge and other corrections facilities in Washington have experienced high numbers of COVID-19 cases, so it’s important that inmates, guards and corrections facilities workers receive a vaccine, like the rest of us.

What I’m angry about is that inmates are being vaccinated before many of our vulnerable seniors! Two of the counties in our 9th District, Adams and Franklin, have the highest COVID-19 rates of all the counties in the state. However, many people in Adams and Franklin counties have not received a COVID-19 vaccine yet, including many of our vulnerable seniors.

During this pandemic, so many of our seniors, especially those in nursing homes and other senior living arrangements, have had to avoid close physical contact with relatives and friends. This has been very hard on them mentally and emotionally. They didn’t ask to be placed in this situation. My heart goes out to all of our older Americans and other vulnerable individuals who have endured so much in this hard year. In times like this, our elderly and vulnerable should be a top priority when it comes to receiving the vaccine. Many people in our communities are still waiting for a vaccination, yet prisoners get higher priority.

Something is wrong when inmates are given higher priority for the COVID-19 vaccine than taxpayers.

In October, the state Department of Health issued guidelines on who would receive the COVID-19 vaccine and in what order. If you want to read more about how and when the vaccines will be given in Washington, this recent story in the Seattle online publication Crosscut is worth a look.

Working in Olympia during 2021 session

Even though many legislators will “attend” the 2021 legislative session remotely from their homes, I have chosen to be at the Capitol during the session while wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance and practicing other protocols to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19.

While I respect my fellow legislators’ decisions to do what they feel is best in terms of their health and safety, I prefer to fulfill my session-related duties in Olympia and to safely be in the Senate Chamber for floor debates and votes on bills and amendments. The best way for me to represent you and our district is to be at the Capitol in person in order to do the people’s business. Simply put, I don’t want to risk missing a vote on a bill or amendment from home because of slow internet service. Unlike having a movie not download properly, it is a more serious matter for me if I can’t vote on bills because of insufficient bandwidth. That’s why I’ll be casting my votes in Olympia.


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