ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph was the first leader in Central Florida to enact a vaccine mandate this summer, threatening his employees to get a jab or lose their jobs.
At the time, many organizations saw vaccine mandates as nonstarters, afraid too many employees would quit. The tide was shifting, though, and frustrations were mounting. COVID hospitalizations were avoidable and expensive.
“Our healthcare is paid by taxpayer dollars...it’s not right for them to pay for something that is easily avoidable,” Randolph said.
More than a month later, Randolph’s office believes the gamble paid off. His mandate was an early domino. Orange County, Disney and Tampa’s government followed suit.
At the time, 45% of his staff was fully vaccinated. Now, it’s above 90%. About a half dozen people have applied for exemptions with a few days left before the mandate takes effect, Randolph’s spokesman said. Additionally, 12 quit.
Documents reveal why.
“I cannot and will not jeopardize my health in the name of a job,” one employee wrote. “I cannot subject my body to such a vaccine that is so new and so forced by the entire government.”
Anti-vaccine and anti-government sentiment was common among the employees who gave reasonings. One person said she would wait for the FDA to approve the shot. Another said she wouldn’t get it while she was pregnant.
“I believe that the harassment coming from the upper level are violating my religious believes [sic] and decision on how to manage my medical decisions,” another employee wrote, adding that she applied for a religious exemption and hadn’t heard back promptly.
In an email, Randolph’s spokesman said the mandate had been worth it.
“We wish our former employees well and respect their personal decisions,” wrote Eddie Ayala. “Our top priorities are to maintain a safe working environment for our entire workforce and to protect Orange County taxpayers from footing the cost of outrageous medical bills that can easily be prevented through a safe, effective and free vaccine.”
Cox Media Group