Bingen — Washington Gorge Action Programs (WAGAP) has announced that it will require all employees and volunteers throughout the organization to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18.

This announcement follows a unanimous vote by the board on Aug. 26 to institute a new policy. Board members noted that employees and volunteers are on the front line each day engaging with the public and delivering items to those in quarantine. The organization also receives federal and state funding for programs to help those directly affected by the virus, including assistance with rent, utilities, and food.

In a staff email, Executive Director Leslie Naramore wrote, “As we are approaching the 18-month mark since the pandemic upended our lives, it has become increasingly clear that to beat this thing it’s going to take all hands on deck.”

The board discussed the importance of protecting the vulnerable populations that WAGAP serves, as well as the staff and the organization. Maintaining a functioning workplace was also mentioned as an important reason to institute the requirement. The new policy generally follows the Washington governor’s office’s guidelines, issued in August, that apply to employees at state agencies, schools, and universities.

However, the WAGAP policy allows both medical and religious exemptions with reasonable accommodations, including but not limited to weekly COVID testing, social distancing, and face-covering requirements.

Staff will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks following their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The staff was provided a chart for each of the vaccinations outlining the timeline to meet the deadline. Those employees who do not comply will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

“I have faith that our staff will help our communities increase vaccination rates through their leadership,” Naramore said.

“We are fortunate to have vaccines available to us and the sense of hope that goes along with knowing that working together, we can do this.”