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Firefighters, police push back against vaccine mandate

August 18, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The unions representing some Richmond firefighters and police officers are pushing back against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

City employees must be fully vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 1, but Wednesday is an initial deadline to submit documentation.

Keith Andes, president of the Richmond Firefighters Association, Local 995 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, asked the City Council for a “timeout,” saying members don’t have enough information and calling the vaccine an “experimental drug,” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The group is asking members to abide by the requirement, Andes said Tuesday in an email.

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The council president said she passed the matter on to Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration, which issued the mandate.

The Richmond Coalition of Police said Monday that it also supports pausing the mandate. The coalition, which represents 350 officers of the police department’s 750 sworn positions, opposes a lack of transparency about repercussions for officers who don’t get vaccinated, according to the coalition’s vice president, Police Pilot Carl Scott.

Stoney encouraged city residents to get vaccinated Tuesday. Employees who refuse face the potential for “escalating disciplinary action” up to leave without pay or termination, he said.