Brevard County Commissioners reject proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate for first responders

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Brevard County Commissioners quickly tossed out a policy proposal Tuesday that would have required certain first responders to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Commissioner John Tobia had hoped to find some support for his proposal to require county employees with direct contact with vulnerable citizens to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment.

“Firefighters were not drafted. They have options to go elsewhere,” Tobias argued during Tuesday’s meeting. “If they put their own concerns over that of the people they’re sworn to protect, then I encourage them to go elsewhere.”

READ: Teachers, firefighters and law enforcement officers 50 and older may soon be offered COVID-19 vaccines, DeSantis says

Tobia did not receive the support he’d hoped to find from fellow commissioners who expressed concerns about anything resembling a mandate.

“I myself have been vaccinated, but it was my choice,” District 5 Commissioner Kristine Zonka said.

“As conservatives, we believe that less government is better government,” Commissioner Curt Smith said. “We should not be telling employees they have to get a needle if they don’t want one. I would encourage them to, but it’s their choice, not ours.”

READ: Transplant recipient dies after receiving COVID-19-infected lungs

A number of first responders who spoke up for themselves at the meeting also made it clear they wanted that choice.

“The only concern is the mandate. It has nothing to do with the vaccination itself,” said Michael Bramson, President of the local firefighters union. “It’s about mandating something that is not part of terms and conditions of employment circumventing the negotiations process.”

Firefighters are also currently negotiating a new contract with the county. They’re offering an incentive to first responders of $75 dollars for each dose of the vaccine they receive.

READ: COVID-19 testing on the decline as vaccination rate rises

A survey conducted by the firefighters union found that about a third of respondents said they wanted the vaccine.

“I honestly thought that we would prioritize public health, and that clearly did not happen today,” Tobia said.

When asked if he planned to bring the proposal up again, Tobia said he did not.