INL Announcement About COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements


Photo From

Main site of Idaho National Laboratory

Angel Guerrero, Staff Writer

It’s been roughly a year since the Idaho National Laboratory set a COVID-19 vaccine requirement as a condition of employment and the mandate began to lift. They were an announcement sent in an emailed message on October 6, 2022, addressed to all the INL employees by INL Director John Wagner. Wagner says, “We introduced this requirement to decrease COVID-19 rates among our staff and to comply with an executive order.” He also says, “At the time, the Delta Variant was filling local hospital beds. Healthcare workers were overwhelmed, and the prospect of rationing care was very real.” He then goes on to explain that COVID-19 was an enormous threat to the lab. Subsequently, employees had to quarantine regularly and the workforce was experiencing illness and death, according to the message. John Wagner also says this: “The vaccination requirement fulfilled its purpose. Vaccination rates among INL employees increased. Serious illness decreased. This allowed us to continue our important mission work and protect the health, safety, and well-being of our employees.” He believes that the vaccine requirement was the correct decision to enforce, but now, circumstances are much different these days. He is saying if you get the vaccine, it will protect your health, safety, and well-being of the employees. Wagner says, “COVID-19 is far less of a threat than it was a year ago reduced spread of the virus no longer requires the actions taken a year ago, and so, while we strongly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for those who work at INL and believe it is important to reduce the risk of serious illness, we no longer are requiring it as a condition of employment.” 

John Bess is a former distinguished researcher in nuclear science and technology at the INL who also represented the United States as chairman for international benchmark projects with an organization in France. Last fall, he told he was being terminated from the INL after the INL twice denied his religious exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He also told that even though the INL dropped its vaccine requirement, it doesn’t change the fact that they discriminated against their employee’s beliefs. John Bess says, “It doesn’t change the truth of the matter, which is that they mistreated, persecuted, and terminated so many employees, coerced others to forego their freedoms and beliefs, and strong-armed many into early retirement. Patting themselves on the back doesn’t fix the damage they’ve done to our community. This just shows how much of a coward and a bully they are. They are not an actual leader that reflects what Idaho stands for. It is time for the Battelle Energy Alliance regime to step down from mismanaging Idaho National Laboratory.” In John Wagner’s email, he understands that this decision will have mixed emotions and reactions. John Wagner mentions, “I believe we need to remain consistent with both the process and intent when we announced our decision last fall. The best information available tells us that now is the time to lift the requirement.”