A local fire chief who called the governor’s vaccine mandate for health care workers and first responders “un-American” and said he would sooner be fired than enforce it elaborated on his position during an Aurora Fire Board meeting Wednesday.
Aurora Fire Chief Joshua Williams said he has received comments from all over the country since his statement opposing the vaccine mandate, which he initially posted to the district’s Facebook page, was first reported by The Canby Current and other media.
“There are people out there that think that we’re not doing anything,” Williams said. “That’s just not correct. As you can see, we’re all wearing masks. We wear masks every day in the fire station.
“These men and women have responded out for the past 18 months and have protected themselves and have protected the community, and we continue to do that to this day. When this political storm blows over, these same people will continue to respond out safely and treat our public well and do the best job that we can.”
Williams said he believes his firefighters, the majority of whom are volunteers, have received enough information about the vaccine to make an educated decision.
“I want to make sure the board understands that I’m doing everything I can do to make sure the membership and public is safe,” he said. ” I want to make it very, very clear that I support my people if they choose to get a vaccination.
“I told them at the last training session, if they need someone to drive them to the vaccination clinic, call the chief. I’ll do it, OK? This was never supposed to be about a vaccine.”
He sent a memo advising career and volunteer firefighters of their options, including to get vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption.
“I also have a fourth option for them, and that is to do nothing,” Williams explained. “And I was very clear in my memo, that I don’t know what the future holds for people who decide that. I don’t know what the future holds for me for deciding that.
“I just cannot bring myself to fire an employee or a volunteer that’s been working safely for the past 18 months. Whether you like that or not, that’s how I feel. I understand that decisions have consequences, and believe me, I’ve weighed those, and I’m comfortable with my decisions.”
The board ultimately voted to table its discussion of the vaccine mandate until its next meeting Oct. 20 — which is two days after the governor’s mandate takes effect.
Williams is also a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit asserting the state has no standing to force its Covid-19 vaccine mandates upon individuals because they already have natural immunity to the virus.
“Plaintiffs have already contracted Covid-19, and recovered, and have natural immunity to the virus at least as robust, durable, and long-lasting as that artificially achieved through vaccination,” attorneys representing the six plaintiffs, including Williams, wrote in their initial petition.
“The state has no compelling interest in coercing plaintiffs into taking a Covid-19 vaccine, because Oregon has no compelling interest in treating employees with natural immunity any differently from employees who obtained immunity from a vaccine.”
The petition states that Williams fell ill in early January 2021 and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. His attorneys stated that he followed testing and quarantine protocols and is now fully recovered from the virus.
“Because he has fully recovered from Covid-19, Mr. Williams has acquired robust natural immunity,” the petition said. “Based on his naturally acquired immunity, it is medically unnecessary for Mr. Williams to undergo a vaccination procedure at this point (which fact also renders the procedure and any attendant risks medically unethical).”
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