KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The union representing firefighters for the Kingsley Field airbase near Klamath Falls released a statement on Monday declaring that they "respectfully stand in firm opposition" to Oregon's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
IAFF Local 3340, the Kingsley Fire Fighters Association, said that other unions representing first responders and medical professionals have issued statements in opposition to the vaccine mandates, and they strongly stand in agreement with "not only our sisters and brothers, but all public service employees that believe in the individuals 'right to choose.'"
The Oregon Nurses Association, the state's largest nursing union, put out a more mixed response earlier this month — acknowledging that the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers will likely increase vaccination rates, but will also exacerbate the existing staffing crisis.
"We know Oregon’s registered nurses and nurse practitioners have already achieved a high rate of vaccination," the ONA said in a statement. "We also know that some health care workers are deeply opposed to vaccine mandates; so deeply that some will leave the profession before accepting a mandate."
IAFF Local 3340 said that they trust their members and know that they will continue to serve the community safely "despite their personal immunization status."
"As first responders we can attest to the many challenges this pandemic has brought on, no one is denying that," the union said. "Collectively, as a team, we respectfully stand in firm opposition of this vaccine mandate. We believe in bodily autonomy, civil liberties, and a person’s individual right to make their own medical decisions.
"This mandate sets a dangerous precedent and should be concerning to all. Our collective opposition to this mandate is not about politics, COVID-19, or a vaccine itself. It’s about stripping individuals of a basic American freedom, our right as individuals to make personal medical choices."
Data from the Oregon Health Authority indicates that vaccination rates vary widely in the healthcare sector, both by field and by license type. Generally speaking, vaccination rates are quite high among doctors and nurses — particularly nurse practitioners (80%), medical doctors (88%), and dentists (95%). They are considerably lower among paramedics (66%), EMTs (61%), and other licensees in the emergency medical services.
Statewide, some of the very lowest vaccination rates in healthcare are among naturopaths (60%) and chiropractors (52%).
Governor Kate Brown's mandate requires that healthcare workers, K-12 teachers and staff, and many state employees certify that they are fully vaccinated by October 18. This includes all EMS providers, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The only exemptions are for medical reasons or for a "sincerely held religious belief."