Hundreds of DCFEMS responders file religious exemptions for vaccines

Of the 475 religious exemptions filed with the city, 419 are from first responders in fire and EMS

By Rachel Engel

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of first responders have filed religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Of the 475 religious exemptions requests received by the city, 419 are fire and EMS responders, City Administrator Kevin Donahue told WTOP news.

“None have been denied thus far,” he said. “They’re all going under the deliberation and scrutiny that are required under federal law.”

The city’s vaccine mandate goes into effect on Sept. 30, and all health care workers and firefighters must receive their first dose by the deadline or possibly lose their position.

According to Donahue, the mandate is there to encourage people to get vaccinated, not issue punishment.

“By design, suspensions would not take effect until after employees have had a couple of weeks to be reminded of their obligations,” he said. “So, the initial interaction between the employer and an employee who has not complied is a reminder and then a conference.”

Donahue said any disciplinary action against city employees who decide not to get vaccinated will not occur until October.

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