Opinion: Fewer firefighters due to vaccine mandate should make us hot under the collar

Elizabeth Hovde shares a story of how Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees could drastically reduce the number of volunteer firefighters available to help fight large fires.

Elizabeth Hovde shares a story of how Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees could drastically reduce the number of volunteer firefighters available to help fight large fires

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees — you know, the one that cannot stop spread or transmission of the virus among coworkers — could drastically reduce the number of volunteer firefighters available to help fight large fires, says a story in The Wenatchee World

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

The heads of two fire districts in Chelan County say vaccine requirements may lead to two-thirds fewer firefighters available for mobilization. Their worry is in part based on a survey of fire departments in the Mid-Columbia Mobilization Region. 

​​The two chiefs asked the region’s fire departments to poll their volunteers’ vaccination status, The Wenatchee World reports. About 20 of the 66 departments responded with answers, and, “Of the 562 volunteer firefighters who responded to the survey, 248 were vaccinated — about 44 percent. But only 77 were willing to submit their vaccination card to the State Patrol,” the paper writes. “That’s about one-third of the eligible pool and about 14 percent of all the firefighters who took the survey.” 

A spokesperson for the state Fire Marshal’s Office and State Patrol confirmed that the governor’s order “applies to volunteer firefighters who become ‘casual hires’ during emergency mobilization ….”

The story also highlights the lack of wisdom in the state’s inconsistent vaccination standards, which will allow some workers on incident sites to be unvaccinated but not others, given their contractor vs. employee status.

The two fire chiefs, ​​Phil Mosher and Kelly O’Brien, say they’ve attempted to make their concerns known in Olympia to no avail.

Fire season alone should motivate Inslee to end his vaccine mandate. Then again, knowing more about the virus, who becomes severely ill, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of available COVID-19 vaccines has not motivated reconsideration of the mandate on state workers.

Instead, Inslee has doubled and tripled down. He recently made the vaccine mandate permanent for some state employees and will require boosters to be added to the requirement. This could eventually result in more firings, fewer employees and more harm to state services that taxpayers pay for and expect. Directive 22-13 outlines the requirement.

Vaccines are proving useful at fighting COVID-19 hospitalization and death. Vaccine mandates are not. They are creating division and suspicion, ruining careers and hurting workforces with no demonstrable health benefit

The mandate and enhanced mandate appear to be unjust discrimination against people who aren’t doing what the governor wants them to do. He should be making compelling arguments for vaccination and continuing to encourage safe practices, instead of crafting mandates and directives.

Note: Public comment is being accepted on the booster-inclusive vaccine mandate during its rulemaking phase. If interested, submit written comments to Brandy Chinn at the Office of Financial Management, P.O. Box 47500, Olympia, Wash., 98501 or brandy.chinn@ofm.wa.gov by August 4. Proposed rulemaking information is here: https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/rulemaking/rules_dev/WSR_22-14-104_CR102.pdf.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.

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  1. Margaret

    Washington’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) has quietly given notice of new rules, to be adopted in less than a month, that will require most Washington State civil service employees to be “fully vaccinated” for Covid in perpetuity, including all CDC-recommended boosters. This attempt to circumvent the Legislature to create adult mandates outside of emergency edicts is unprecedented.

    Public comments due to brandy.chinn@ofm.wa.gov by midnight Wednesday, August 3

    The proposed laws fly in the face of informed consent, which is the basis for all international human rights declarations.

    Discrimination against individuals based upon their personal health care decisions is immoral.

    This article reports on some of the deaths and adverse health impacts after vaccination if they were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. Many deaths and adverse health impacts are never reported.

  2. Amanda Blake

    How many would still have their loved ones, had they not been around unvaccinated people. Why should I have to work beside unvaccinated co-workers??? From as far back as I can remember you had to be vaccinated to attend public school–I think that was a mandate.

    1. Christine

      Are you trolling? I just can’t tell.

      This has been “debunked” if you will.
      If you are vaccinated you can still catch it, still spread it, become ill and possibly still die. There is a new study out of Portugal this week you may find interesting: People who have received a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot were more likely to end up in a hospital when infected with BA.5 than BA.2, according to a new study.
      Researchers in Portugal found that BA.5 cases among the group had 3.4 times higher odds of hospitalization when compared to BA.2 cases.
      Also, in Washington you are not required to be vaccinated (with childhood shots for example) to attend school.
      Hope this helps

    2. Wolfie

      Good grief. To live like this with so much fear and contempt.. it is a virus. Like all the viruses we have lived with our entire lives. If you want to be vaccinated with this fakccine no one is stopping you. It does not do what it is supposed to do.. your big guy in the white house supposedly had four jabbies and he has had the Vid 2X now. Go figure!

    3. Sylvia

      Viruses are part of nature, as are bacteria and a multitude of organisms. Humans are also part of nature! The mRNA in Covid19 is a messenger RNA which carries a message. The innate immune system, if robust, will interact with it and take the necessary action(s). Mission completed.
      Humans evolve through time as part of an adaptation process.
      Viruses and bacteria mutate, or adapt, in response to their environment. Just as bacteria (eg MRSA) have developed remarkable resistance to antibiotics (eg over-use), so is a virus likely to undergo mutations and develop variants, perhaps in response to the jabs. It is an ongoing research subject.
      Many people around the world have not been vaccinated/jabbed since birth, by choice and nothing at all to do with religion. Those people have remained healthy for many years, and have not been sick with Covid19. Many children have remained free of vax/jabs – wise parents’ choice.
      Jabbed people exude high viral loads. A valid reason for the jab-free to stay clear of the jabbed. Many jabbed still get Covid19, eg Biden, Fauci, etc! So much for “safe and effective”.
      It is a good idea to peruse scientific research as the basis for discussions. Dogmatically dismissing differing points of view with zero scientific facts or, totally against scientific facts, is a state of denial or refusal to accept reality. Many would see it as loss of credibility. Developing skills to be open-minded is invigorating and uncover worlds that you have never imagined existed. Try it, nothing to lose.

  3. Sylvia

    Firefighters deserve our utmost respect and sincere gratitude. Irrespective of any differences we may have, please let us unite in our support for them.
    Thank you, Firefighters, for all that you do to keep our wilderness, our wildlife, our houses, our farms, our planet, animals and populations safe. May the Universe rain blessings on you!


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