Firefighters refusing COVID-19 shots express worry about keeping their jobs

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As of last week, Orange County was in jeopardy of losing nearly 600 firefighters over Mayor Jerry Demings’ vaccine mandate.

Now, the mayor says any county employee who refuses the shot will be given a written reprimand.

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Nearly half of Orange County’s firefighters said they’re relieved to keep their jobs for now, but they’re worried about what could still happen to them as they continue to refuse the COVID-19 shot.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Orange County firefighter Jason Wheat. “But it’s still not what we’re looking for, because that means the mandate is still on the table. And it’s still going to cause disciplinary action against firefighters.”

READ: Orange County, firefighters remain at odds over vaccine requirements

Wheat said some of his colleagues could still lose their jobs if they’ve already had a written reprimand in the last 18 months and get a second one for not getting vaccinated.

And that’s not all.

“Any of our firefighters that are excited about getting a promotion, whether it be engineer, lieutenant, or battalion chief, that completely eliminates them from the process,” Wheat said. “So they’re going to have to sit out maybe another three, four years in order to get promoted. So this is a really, really big deal.”

READ: Firefighters protest against Orange County vaccine mandate

He said many firefighters feel misunderstood and they believe what the county is doing is unlawful, unethical and wrong.

Firefighters said they’re happy the mayor doesn’t plan to fire anyone refusing the shot, but it takes only two written reprimands to be terminated.

READ: Orange County firefighters push back on vaccine requirements

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.