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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Oct. 4, 2021 1 month ago

Orange County Fire Rescue firefighters sue county over vaccine mandate

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The firefighters filed a lawsuit Friday, Oct. 1.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

On Friday, Oct. 1 a group of Orange County firefighters came together to sue the county over a local vaccine mandate.

A group of 43 employees with the Orange County Fire Rescue filed a lawsuit against the Florida county over its mandate requiring either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or regular negative tests. 

County workers were required to show proof of at least one shot by Thursday, Sept. 30, ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline to be fully vaccinated.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said those who don't show proof of vaccination will receive a letter of reprimand but face no risk of being fired for violating the order, which we told you about here. 

According to Demings, on Thursday, 86% of Orange County workers have gotten at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I believe the decisions we’ve made have been in the best interest of everyone, including our firefighters," Demings said in the COVID-19 update Thursday. "This is the right balance, I think, going forward."

The lawsuit, filed in state court, seeks an injunction to block the county mandate, which began taking effect Thursday.

"Now, suddenly, as a result of the mere existence of experimental vaccines hastily developed to combat COVID-19 spread, Plaintiffs are inexplicably no longer appreciated for sacrifice and admirable efforts for years, and particularly, the last eighteen months," the lawsuit said.

Firefighters have been challenging the requirements since last month, even organizing protests. 

The lawsuit also states firefighters have been subject to "harassment, extreme coercion to obtain the shots, including threat of discipline, up to and including termination, and public maligning for their personal decisions regarding how they can best protect their bodies in order to continue to perform the rigorous requirements of their job as first responders."

More information and updates are expected this week. 

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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