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No reconsideration in 9 firefighters’ termination

Posted on Apr 19 2021

The Torres administration won’t be reconsidering the termination of the nine firefighters who defied government orders to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Speaking at a radio news briefing last Friday, Torres said there is no reconsideration since these employees are terminated already for refusing to get the vaccine.

The nine firefighters have refused to be vaccinated, citing the many unknowns about the vaccine and insisting that they be given the option whether to be vaccinated or not.

However, in order to avoid being vaccinated, a person must have either one of two acceptable reasons: a medical condition that precludes being vaccinated or it is against a “sincerely held” religious belief. According to Torres, the firefighters who were terminated had none of these two reasons. Instead, they just refused to get vaccinated.

“There’s two options for you not to be vaccinated. One, if your doctor tells you that you shouldn’t get vaccinated, and two, if it’s a religious purpose. None of those two were the approach of those that were terminated. They just refuse to get vaccinated,” said Torres. He said every government employee had “ample time” to do their research on the vaccines.

Torres said there were furloughed government employees who were mandated to get the vaccine. “If you work in the government [or] you work in a private sector, we all have obligations. These obligations for now means getting vaccinated. Those that were furloughed and were brought back in, it’s mandatory that they get vaccinated. So, should they also be given reconsideration if they refuse to get vaccinated?” asked Torres.

Torres hopes the firefighters find a workplace that don’t mandate the vaccine. For now, he said, every government worker is mandated to take the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration recently recommended suspending the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine due to six reported U.S. cases of side effects—a rare and severe type of blood clot, with symptoms occurring six to 13 days after vaccination.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, the nine Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Service personnel were fired last April 12.

There were initially 23 individuals who signed a petition against the mandatory vaccination, but 14 decided to get vaccinated and keep their jobs while nine stayed firm against the directive.

Last Feb. 18, Torres made it mandatory for all Executive Branch employees, and semi-autonomous agencies and entities to be vaccinated.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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