Medic voices concern over lack of accommodation for providers with medical exemptions

Shellie Nicklos worries she may not be able to continue working for Seattle Fire, and hopes an accommodation can be ‘carved out’ for her


By Rachel Engel 

SEATTLE — A paramedic is speaking out after learning that there are currently no accommodations for Seattle Fire Department first responders granted a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Paramedic Shellie Nicklos, who lives with an autoimmune disease, received a medical exemption for the vaccine from her doctor, but when she presented the letter to the Seattle Fire Department, she was told there were no accommodations available to allow her to keep working with patients.  

“What I want to see is for me to be able to continue to practice and serve my city,” she said in an interview with KOMO News.  

The deadline for Seattle first responders to be vaccinated is Oct. 18, prompting questions about how the agency – and others – will handle exemptions for their members.  

Nicklos said she is willing to undergo daily testing in order to continue working in her capacity as a paramedic, but said the department had not yet “carved out” an accommodation for her. 

“I’m honestly grieving a lot about not be able to do what I do best,” she said. 

A spokesperson from the Seattle Fire Department said the agency “is contingency planning for various staffing scenarios we may face on Oct. 19 and beyond. We are committed to the health and safety of our community and will comply with the Mayor and Governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.” 

According to the statement, 95% of SFD members have submitted a proof of vaccination or an exemption form. To combat any staffing issues due to the mandate, the department will take several steps, including:  

  • Canceling non-essential training, community events and focusing building inspections on schools; 

  • Prioritizing units through analysis of response routes; and 

  • Adjusting response models. 

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