We Asked Candidates for Governor Who Should Be Required to Get a COVID Shot

Our question: Do you support vaccine mandates?

The political landscape for vaccine mandates has changed dramatically in the course of the past several weeks. Democrats, including Gov. Kate Brown, have rolled back mask and vaccine mandates in the face of declining COVID-19 case counts—and to avert a landslide against the party in November. (The pandemic has aided in making two successive presidents, one from each party, unpopular.)

On March 12, statewide mask mandates will end in Oregon—as well as Washington and California. On April 1, Brown will also roll back her vaccine mandates for most state employees, while leaving in place the requirement that health care workers and school employees be vaccinated, The Oregonian reported March 2.

That left at least one Democratic candidate on shifting ground: Former House Speaker Tina Kotek followed Brown, supporting the full vaccine mandate when WW first asked the question before the governor’s change; now she supports it only for those whom Brown continues to mandate a requirement. “Our understanding is that with the emergency order now expiring, the vaccine requirement for public employees is no longer legally defensible,” says Kotek spokeswoman Katie Wertheimer.

As she has in previous policy changes, Gov. Brown says she’s relying on science. “As she has throughout the pandemic, the governor’s decisions have been guided by science, data and the advice and recommendations of doctors, scientists and health experts,” says spokesman Charles Boyle. “Poll numbers for anyone do not factor into those decisions.”

WW asked: Do you support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public employees? What about for students in public schools?


YES AND YES

Tobias Read, Oregon state treasurer, Democrat

We are two years into the pandemic and are moving out of a crisis response into an endemic approach. Over time, COVID vaccines, which millions of people around the world have received, should not be different than the eight other vaccines we require of school students.


YES for health care workers and school employees as now required YES after FDA approval

Tina Kotek, former House speaker, Democrat

The COVID-19 vaccines are still the very best tool to avoid hospitalization and stem the tide of new variants. While case numbers and hospitalizations are declining, we should all continue taking steps to stay safe and healthy. That includes staying up to date on your COVID vaccinations.


NO AND NO

Bridget Barton, conservative writer, Republican

I don’t support vaccine mandates for anyone. We are free, intelligent adults, able to make choices about our health and our children’s health. Government should provide accurate, complete information and easy access to information, without censoring scientific discussions and debates.

Christine Drazan, former state House minority leader, Republican

I trust people to decide for themselves the best approach to their own health care, even if our current governor does not. This idea that the state should coerce people into taking the vaccine by threatening their livelihoods is just plain wrong. I’d repeal the mandates on day one.

Whether we’re talking about masks or vaccines, nobody should be getting in the way of a parent’s right to determine what is best for their own child. Period.

Betsy Johnson, former state senator, unaffiliated

I don’t believe the government has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies. Just give us the information we need and the opportunity to act. Just because someone works for the state doesn’t give them less rights than the rest of us. I’m appalled their union leadership signed off on the governor’s mandate.

This is unnecessary nanny-state overreach. Parents and teachers should run our schools, not bureaucrats and politicians. The worst thing we did during the pandemic was closing schools and taking away parents’ rights to do what’s best for their kids.

Bud Pierce, doctor, Republican

Ever-changing directions and mandates have only created social discontent.

Stan Pulliam, mayor of Sandy, Republican

It absolutely is NOT the business of state government to force anyone to get vaccinated. And it will destroy participation in public education if we are forced to keep our kids home in order to exercise our God-given right to make medical decisions for our own children.

Bob Tiernan, former state representative, Republican

I do not support a vaccine mandate for public employees. Getting the vaccine does not stop a person from getting or spreading the disease. No to public school students getting vaccinated— the risks outweigh the benefits.