WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Thursday marked six weeks since the deadline for D.C. firefighters and medical workers to get vaccinated, yet over 2,000 licensed healthcare workers and 300 Fire and EMS employees still haven’t gotten the shot.
A spokesperson for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there is no timeline for when people could lose their job or license, despite the time that’s passed since the mayor’s deadline.
Many of those unvaccinated D.C. workers are requesting a religious exemption. According to numbers provided by the city, 1,571 licensed health care workers are requesting one as well as 261 fire and EMS employees.
"The deadline was October 1 and we haven’t heard anything one way or another since then," said Will Jones, a firefighter requesting a religious exemption.
Jones is part of the Firefighters Bodily Autonomy Affirmation Group. He said he and other firefighters are prepared to walk away from their job instead of getting vaccinated.
"At the end of the day, we need to have a say in what goes into your body and being able to make that decision on your own," Jones said.
Jones says he’s a "follower of Yeshua" - which means Jesus - and takes moral issue that shots in America are plentiful, but elsewhere vaccination rates are shockingly low.
"On the continent of Africa, it’s less than 5 percent," he said. "This is one of the biggest health inequalities we have seen."
A religious exemption is tough to come by. The city has not yet granted a single one for firefighters and EMS workers.
Many D.C. employees, including police, can remain unvaccinated, but do regular COVID-19 testing. Seventeen percent of police department employees were unvaccinated as of Nov. 2, according to the city.
But healthcare, fire and school employees don’t have the test-out option.
Jones says it’s been made clear by the mayor and fire chief: no jab, no job. But it remains unclear when or if firings will start.
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 do that if they are spreading COVID-19.
"One hundred percent," Jones responded. "But again, I say this every time, we are taking negative tests."
He said unvaccinated firefighters are submitting weekly tests, and he doesn’t understand why that can’t continue.
Jones said the city can’t afford to lose 300 firefighters, especially in the poorest wards that get the most medical calls.
"We’re already working mandatory overtime as it is fully staffed," Jones said. "I was on a call the other day, I had a young child unconscious in my arms waiting for a medic unit to come from across the city to where we work."