Orange County first responder unions came out recently against CCP virus vaccination mandates after the California Department of Public Health announced that health care workers and other workers in “high-risk” jobs need to be vaccinated.
The unions argue that the mandates limit medical freedom, and could lead to termination for the first responders.
Alexa Pratt, director of communications for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), said the union believes sheriff’s deputies should be able to make the decision to get vaccinated or not based on what they believe is best for them.
“AOCDS has been and remains fully committed to protecting the health and safety of our members and the public they serve during this health emergency,” Pratt told The Epoch Times via email. “We have encouraged and assisted in vaccination efforts, but we cannot support a vaccine mandate. Department personnel have the right and freedom to make their own medical decisions, which includes whether or not to be vaccinated.”
The mandate, which is expected to go into effect next week, would require workers under the “high-risk” category to have the first dose of a one-dose vaccine, or second dose of a two-dose vaccine by September 30.
“[We strongly oppose] discipline, especially termination, for failure to comply with these forced measures,” Pratt said. “These are outrageous and unnecessary consequences for simply exercising their rights to make their own medical decisions.”
The mandate would affect approximately 1,500 “high-risk” employees out of 3,800 Orange County Sheriff’s Department staff, which mostly means those who work in correctional facilities and detention centers, Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun told The Epoch Times.
“They either have to provide proof of vaccination or they have to provide a weekly negative test, and that’s all being handled through our employee health side, which is a division of the county health care agency,” Braun said. “So the staff who fall under that order have already been notified by employee health. They are providing that proof of vaccination directly to employee health, so it’s not a department record, it’s an employee health record.”
Braun said it’s still being determined what the potential consequences will be for staff who don’t follow the guidelines.
The union is currently working with other organizations to determine the viability of filing a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the mandate, Pratt said, and will continue to gather information to determine the best path for members moving forward.
The president of the equivalent union for firefighters, the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association (OCPFA), said that while he himself is vaccinated, the union will not support mandated vaccines for its members. There’s currently no mandate for firefighters, EMTs, or paramedics at the state or local level.
“I want to make it very clear the position of [OCPFA] is that we do not support the violation of your personal freedom of choice by requiring vaccinations to our firefighters,” OCPFA president Todd Baldridge said in a statement.
“We cannot and will not support the mandatory vaccination policies that are slowly becoming common practice across our state and country. Organizations that threaten employees to compromise their personal beliefs should not be tolerated.”