WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) – Thursday marked six weeks since the deadline for DC firefighters and medical personnel to get vaccinated, yet more than 2,000 licensed health professionals and 300 fire and EMS personnel still haven’t had the chance.
READ MORE: At least 1,000 DC Public Schools employees have failed to provide evidence of the COVID-19 vaccine
A spokesman for DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said there is no timeline for when people could lose their jobs or permits, despite the time that has passed since the mayor’s deadline.
Many of those unvaccinated DC workers are asking for a religious waiver. According to figures provided by the city, 1,571 licensed health professionals are applying for one, as well as 261 fire and ambulance personnel.
“The deadline was October 1, and we somehow haven’t heard anything since,” said Will Jones, a firefighter who asked for a religious exemption.
READ MORE: Religious Exemption Requests for COVID-19 Vaccine Rising Across DC Region
Jones is part of the Firefighters Bodily Autonomy Affirmation Group. He said he and other firefighters are willing to walk away from their jobs instead of getting vaccinated.
“Ultimately, we need to have a say in what goes into your body and be able to make that decision on our own,” Jones said.
Jones says he is a Christian and morally objects that there are enough vaccinations in America, but vaccination rates elsewhere are shockingly low.
“On the African continent, it’s less than 5 percent,” he said. “This is one of the biggest health disparities we’ve seen.”
A religious exemption is difficult to obtain. The city has not yet awarded any for firefighters and ambulance personnel.
Many DC workers, including the police, can remain unvaccinated but do regular COVID-19 testing. According to the city, 17 percent of police officers had not been vaccinated as of Nov. 2.
But employees in care, fire brigade and school do not have the possibility to test.
READ MORE: DC Council Pushes for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate with No Test Option for School Staff
Jones says it was made clear by the mayor and fire chief: no shot, no job. But it remains unclear when and if shooting will take place.
FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts asked Jones if he understood the perspective that firefighters are paid by the public to protect the public, and they can’t if they’re spreading COVID-19.
“One hundred percent,” Jones replied. “But again, I say this every time, we take negative tests.”
He said unvaccinated firefighters are submitting weekly tests and he doesn’t understand why that can’t go through.
Jones said the city cannot afford to lose 300 firefighters, especially in the poorest departments that receive the most medical calls.
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“We’re already working mandatory overtime because it’s fully staffed,” Jones said. “I was on the phone recently. I had a young child unconscious in my arms, waiting for a medical unit to come from across town to where we work.”