Local firefighters union tells governor it opposes COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The union representing South County Fire’s nearly 300 firefighters has sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, stating that union members “respectfully disagree” with the governor’s proclamation requiring that all state firefighters be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs.

“IAFF Local 1828 is not against vaccines, however we are against mandatory vaccinations that strip away our members’ right to choose and would also lead to them to be tern1inated from a career they have worked hard for and served selflessly to our communities, even during this pandemic,” stated the letter, signed by four IAFF Local 1828 officers.

The letter also noted that firefighters and other health care providers “have been serving on the frontlines of this pandemic for nearly two years. We have all seen firsthand the effects that COVID-19 has had on our communities.” And it adds that “many of our firefighters have chosen to become fully vaccinated.”

The governor’s proclamation, the letter said, “only offers vaccination or termination, yet as of today our membership is seeing breakthrough cases of the vaccinated and unvaccinated in our membership. There are other alternatives available, such as mandatory masking, weekly testing and social distancing requirements. These alternatives would keep health care providers and those we serve safe and keep the much-needed health care providers employed to provide the needed care during this pandemic.”

The union points to staffing shortages that will occur as a result of the. mandate, and asks that the governor’s proclamation “be revised to provide alternatives to the mandatory vaccination component and allow Washingtonians the medical freedom they deserve.”

You can read the full letter here.

South County Fire Chief Thad Hovis

In response, South County Fire Chief Thad Hovis said in a statement Tuesday that the fire authority will “continue to work closely with IAFF Local 1828 on this issue. South County Fire acknowledges and appreciates the rights and diverse perspectives of all our employees as well as the sacrifices they’ve made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

South County Fire provides fire and emergency medical services to more than 250,000 residents in the cities of Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated southwest Snohomish County.

“As public servants we must comply with the laws and rules that govern our state and chosen profession,” Hovis said, adding that the fire authority has ‘notified all South County Fire employees to take immediate action to comply” with the governor’s proclamation. “Safety is our priority. We want to keep employees, their families and the people we serve safe,” he said.

“Vaccinating employees is our immediate focus,” he continued. “Of our 292 uniformed firefighters, 83% are now fully vaccinated and 88% have received their first dose. We are providing vaccination opportunities for all employees performing medical functions in their official course of duty that will allow them to meet the deadline. We want to keep our firefighters safe and employed.

“We are still evaluating potential staffing implications of the vaccine mandate. Our vaccination rate is well above the average for fire agencies in the Puget Sound region. County fire agencies are working together, as we have since the start of the pandemic, to make sure we have resources and plans in place to be able to respond to all emergencies when people dial 911,” Hovis said.




  1. Over 85 percent of their emergency calls are for medical services, not fire suppression. People needing medical services rightfully expect their service providers have taken at least the minimal step to protect against the virus. Right now that minimal step is vaccination. I’d be horrified to learn some medic working on me had dodged vaccination.

  2. I am a retired medical social worker and worked over three decades in a variety of health care settings: hospitals, an HIV/AIDS care facility, and home-based hospice care, with very ill and dying patients and their families.

    I was required to be current in all my vaccinations and to receive an annual flu shot in order to work. I gladly complied with these requirements to keep myself safe and, more importantly, to keep my patients safe.

    That any health care provider who interacts with vulnerable adults and children would refuse this simple safeguard is unconscionable. Sometimes the greater, public good must take precedence our own narrow ideologies and selfishness.

  3. It astounds me that anyone would paint our first responders as selfish. They spend their lives taking care of others at a great cost to themselves and their families. From what I understand they do not oppose the vaccine, just the mandate. Maybe everyone should take a deep breath.

  4. From the numbers in this article, it sounds like about 35 South County firefighters have not had any vaccination shot, and an additional 14 have only had one shot. From a similar story in Seattle, 200 police members there are not fully vaccinated, and face possible termination on top of the already dangerously low staffing levels for the SPD.

    Now that the Pfizer vaccine is fully FDA approved, the Moderna vaccine is nearing FDA approval, and over 5.5 billions doses have been administered worldwide, the vaccines have definitely been proven safe. The important part now is the efficacy message. While COVID hospitalizations percentages of vaccinated/unvaccinated have dropped to 80% unvaccinated from over 99% in June, the vaccines still present the overwhelmingly largest factor in reducing serious illness and death from COVID. There still are a lot of people who do not understand those statistics on vaccine effectiveness, and that barrier in understanding is the largest barrier in defeating this disease and getting our lives back to normal.

    We all owe a serious debt of gratitude to the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect ours. We certainly should not take the potential loss of such essential frontline respondents lightly, however these vaccine mandates are very similar to our current reckless driving laws. Mandating a basic standard of safe behavior. If we can convince people to take reasonable steps to protect the lives of themselves, their families, and everyone they interact with, than we will all benefit from it.

  5. Instead of out right terminating these valuable fire and police professionals, wouldn’t it be a little less objectionable to offer them the choice between vaccination in the public interest or an indefinite time of unpaid furlough until their personal choice not to vaccinate no longer is in conflict with their professional responsibilities to the people they serve. They should be allowed to use any and all of their accrued vacation and sick time before this furlough would be activated of course. At least they would have the knowledge that they would not lose their profession, seniority and benefits over this and could make do with a temporary job and/or unemployment compensation until they could return to work. Vaccination would end any furloughs immediately of course. Maybe we all need to be a little more understanding and flexible on this issue.

  6. I support the firefighters, and hopefully their union is strong enough to either resist forced inoculation (like the Postal Workers have) or broker a pay-to-not-go-to-work arrangement (like the Teachers Unions) have. A lot of the nursing shortages are caused by nurses not wanting the jabs.

    Let’s all agree on this common ground. People who refuse to be forcibly medicated are not trying to convince others not to. People who are trying to convince people to get jabs are not being persuasive. More than half of the vaccine hesitance would be eliminated if the Biden Administration simply investigated where the virus came from and charged the people who created it.

    Personally, saying this as someone who refused Anthrax and Smallpox on threat of Court Marital, I’d likely take the vaccine if I saw reasons to trust the government on the origins of the virus and the efficacy of the vaccines.

    1. Sir,

      Well stated. Those that are not taking the jab are not forcing other to not take the jab.

      That is a decision that needs to be made by individuals, free of coercion or threat, as stipulated in the Nuremberg Codex.

      Thank you for taking a principled stand during your service period in the Armed Services.

      As President Kennedy stated in his 1966 speech in his Day of Affirmation Address at the University Of Capetown, Capetown, South Africa:

      “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.”

  7. It is chilling to read the comments section.

    First, we have public servants that are opposed to taking a medical product (a gene therapy, as classified by the FDA) that has shown less than 50% efficacy against SARs-CoV-2. Although the Pfizer claims 95% efficacy, real world results (and careful review by credentialed professionals, like Dr. Peter Doshi: https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/08/23/does-the-fda-think-these-data-justify-the-first-full-approval-of-a-covid-19-vaccine/) shows it not to stop transmission of SARs-CoV-2 or reduce death rates. Pfizer never claimed, in their filings or peer-reviewed publications, that the therapy they developed actually stops the virus or prevents death.

    Second, the FDA, CDC, Pfizer and the state and county DoH’s have been highly dishonest in their claims of “safe and effective”. The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee presented to the FDA the possible adverse event outcomes associated with their product. FDA has not required the disclosure of these potential adverse events. It remains unreported because the presentation only flashed the image up on the screen for 1 second as part of the public presentation (FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee – 10/22/2020; https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1XTiL9rUpkg). None of these adverse events lists have been provided to physicians, nurses or the public. Informed consent anyone? Here is the top 12 list (out of 22 expected adverse events), as published in the FDA presentation:
    1. Guillain-Barré syndrome
    2. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
    3. Transverse myelitis
    4. Encephalitis/encephalomyelitis/meningoencephalitis/meningitis/encepholapathy
    5. Convulsions/seizures
    6. Stroke
    7. Narcolepsy and cataplexy
    8. Anaphylaxis
    9. Acute myocardial infraction
    10. Myocarditis/pericarditis
    11. Autoimmune disease
    12. Deaths

    Third, the numbers are only as good as the sources that report them. FDA uses the results from the clinical trial to report effectiveness, not real world results. VAERS and EudraVigilance (EMA), US and Europe respectively, are reporting systems that capture death and adverse events suspected of being caused by vaccines. VAERS reports 7,000 deaths and EudraVigilance reports 20,000 deaths. Both systems only capture 1-2% of actual cases.

    This is creating a two-tier society (for the perception of safety) and that never ends well. Fear and coercion, as a tool of public health, has never served public safety well.

  8. I support everyone’s right to make their own personal medical decisions because no one knows one’s body better than oneself. These first responders have experienced more than the general public regarding the risks and benefits of the virus and the injection. They have worked hard in caring for the public these past (nearly) two years and wear all the appropriate barriers necessary to perform their duties in safety, both theirs and those they care for. People in those positions do what they do because they have servants hearts and care for their fellow man, not for glory or gain. I trust them to know what is best for their own bodies and beliefs. It is tyrannical and cruel to make these men and women choose between feeding their families and standing by their medical or moral or religious decisions.

    Thank you to all the first responders for all you do and have done. Stand your ground. I am so sorry you are going through this after all you have done for us.

    And for those who think it is for the greater good to impose vaccines on those who do not wish to receive them, WAKE UP and study history. Sooner or later there will be a mandate you don’t want imposed on you. Or sooner or later you will need emergency care and there just may not be enough people to get to you.

  9. Do you mean the Nuremberg Code? “Codex” usually refers to ancient manuscript books.

    Moral courage has nothing to do with it. Moral courage would urge public servants to do everything possible to protect the public and to set the best possible example. As it is, the non-vaccinated are 11x more likely to die of Covid, are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid – and a quarter of a million children now have it. At the same time, the vaccinated can indeed spread the virus unknowingly, which is why masks are the other vital part in the fight against the pandemic, which has now killed more Americans than all our wars.

    Get vaccinated. Mask up. Be part of the solution, not the problem. What a pity that the union has decided for the latter and to promote yet more anti-vaxxing.

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