Published: August 19, 2021

Governor Kate Brown announced a new rule today requiring all healthcare workers, nursing home workers, and public school employees to be fully vaccinated by October 18. This follows an announcement on Wednesday from President Joe Biden directing all nursing homes in the country to require staff get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Governor’s directive will impact many members of our union, including workers in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult foster homes, and non-profits providing healthcare, counseling or drug treatment services.

State employees and university employees have also seen mandates from their employers in recent weeks.

Because we have a union, we have the right to bargain with employers over the impact of the policy. SEIU 503 President Mike Powers shared these thoughts on the situation:

“When it comes to the vaccine mandate, there is no consensus among our membership. People strongly support the mandate and people strongly oppose the mandate. But I think we can all agree that having a say in how this new policy impacts our lives is a good thing. The next couple of weeks are going to be challenging. I am thankful I don’t have to go it alone.”

What you need to know about the new vaccine mandates.

When will the policy go into effect?  

Immediately. The deadline for workers to be fully vaccinated is October 18. 

Who does this impact?

  • This will impact all healthcare workers, including nursing home workers, assisted living facilities, adult foster homes, and non-profits providing healthcare, counseling or drug treatment services.

  • This will impact all employees at public schools in Oregon.

  • It will not impact most homecare or personal support workers, child care workers, or private non-profits that do not provide “healthcare” services.  

What if I work at a healthcare facility but I’m a cook/janitor/administrator and I don’t work directly with patients? 

You will still be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Can I be fired if I refuse to be vaccinated? 

The Governor’s announcement doesn’t go into this level of detail, and each employer will need to create their own policy. But employees who do not have an exemption and who refuse to be vaccinated could face disciplinary action up to and including termination. 

What are the exemptions? 

This is something we can work to address during bargaining. But the exemptions include ​​disability, qualifying medical conditions, or sincerely held religious beliefs. 

Workers will need to request, in writing, that they have a qualifying exemption by October 18. The process for requesting exemptions will need to be developed by employers. 

Is the vaccine safe? Is it effective? 

Yes. In Oregon, more than 2 million people have been safely vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Vaccines are free and effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. The vaccine will also reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill, being hospitalized or dying if you do get COVID-19. Bottom line, the vaccine is our best weapon in the fight to reopen Oregon.

Where can I get a COVID vaccine shot? 

Vaccines are readily available throughout Oregon, free of charge, at many pharmacies or vaccination sites set up by public health officials. Go to GetVaccinated.Oregon.Gov to find a location near you. 

For additional information on the vaccine, visit our online resource center.