Firefighters protest against Orange County vaccine mandate

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — On Saturday, dozens of firefighters and supporters showed up at Lake Eola to fight for Orange County firefighters’ right to choose.

Firefighters like Jorge Hernandez say the rally isn’t about being against the vaccine, it’s about the right to decide for themselves.

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“When this whole pandemic started and we were out there, we were never against the vaccine,” Hernandez said. “We actually encouraged people who had underlying issues to take it as their best choice.”

Hernandez hopes they can come to a compromise with the county, even if it that means weekly testing.

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Mayor Jerry Demings has said it’s not up to them to decide that.

Currently, about 80% of county workers have had at least one shot.

Orange County is risking millions in fines by the state for enforcing the mandate.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he doesn’t want the firefighters to lose their jobs over this, either.

“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.

23-year fire rescue vet Wendy Williams says the costs outweigh the gain for the lifesaving shot.

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“When you have 20-year firefighters, paramedics and battalion chiefs being terminated, a $5,000 fine is nothing compared to the waste of tax-payers’ money it took to train us, keep us and retain us and our skills to serve the community,” Williams said.

Williams is one of about 600 firefighters who’s now at risk of losing her job for refusing to show proof of a COVID vaccine.

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They only have two more weeks to get it done.

“There is a lot on the line, but my freedom is not for sale,” Williams said.

At this time, neither side is budging.

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“Everyday I’m getting phone calls. ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m stressed out. I’m at a breaking point,’ and it’s because of this mandate,” Hernandez said.

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