Orange County firefighters push back on vaccine requirements

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The battle over vaccine mandates for Orange County employees looks to be headed to court.

About 500 Orange county firefighters indicated they will not turn in their vaccination cards in support of others who refuse to get vaccinated.

Under the mandate from Orange County mayor Jerry Demings, county employees have two weeks to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face termination.

READ: Demings extends requirement for Orange County employees to get vaccinated, but some remain hesitant

Orange County firefighter Jason Wheat said even though he had COVID-19 last year, he still doesn’t want to get the vaccine.

He said his fight isn’t about the vaccine but about being forced to do something he doesn’t believe in.

“It’s not about the vaccine, it’s just about protecting our freedom of choice,” Wheat said.

READ: DeSantis shifts, plans to fine local governments mandating employee vaccines

Monday Governor DeSantis said that he would fine local governments that put in place vaccine mandates.

Orange County fired back, saying that they are well within their rights to put a mandate in place.

Even if the county prevails in court, the question remains as to whether the Mayor will fire those first responders who refuse the vaccine in the middle of a pandemic.

“I am as sympathetic to firefighters as anyone and I don’t want to put them in a position where we are putting them in a situation of undue harm when it comes to their personal decisions and it’s a matter of interpretation and belief,” Demings said.

WATCH: ‘It’s heartbreaking’: Orlando doctor receives threatening mail for stance on masks, COVID-19 vaccine

So far the mayor has not offered any other options, so the firefighters union says they will sue the county for what they believe is right.

Firefighters from across the state have said they plan to hold a rally in Orlando to show support for Orange County firefighters.


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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler,

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Matt Reeser,

Matt Reeser joined WFTV in 1998 as a news photographer and has worked for television stations in Kentucky and West Virginia.