Only 50% of Wake County firefighters are vaccinated, should it be mandated?

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s now a push at the national, state and local level to mandate vaccinations for healthcare workers. In Wake County, all firefighters are certified EMT’s, meaning they respond to medical emergencies and are considered healthcare workers.

CBS 17 requested and received data from Wake County. It showed only 50-percent of firefighters are vaccinated.

Meaning the rate of vaccinations among Wake County firefighters are lower than that of the adult population of both the state and county. 

Furthermore, Wake County couldn’t provide “a current updated breakdown by department”, raising more questions.

“We’re kind of in a stalemate at this point, where those who are vaccinated are glad they’re vaccinated, and the ones who are not getting vaccinated seem to be unwilling to get a vaccine,” Apex Fire Chief Keith McGee said.

CBS 17 spoke with the fire chiefs for the Apex, Wendell and Zebulon departments. All three said they’ve tried to educate their firefighters about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, but for some it’s a hard sell. 

“We’ve got a lot of young employees and they’re uncertain of the long-term effects,” Zebulon Fire Department Chief Chris Perry said.

Zebulon currently sits at a 60-percent vaccination rate, while Apex has 62-percent and Wendell is at 70-percent. Raleigh and Cary, the other fire departments in Wake County, did not provide their numbers.

CBS 17 asked what the fire department’s message would be to homeowners concerned about the low vaccination rates.

“I would say this, 60-percent are vaccinated…  if they desire us to wear a mask than we will gladly comply with that,” McGee said.

Our news station also posed a question to each of the three fire department chiefs: With the VA, the state Department of Health and Human Services and a growing number of hospitals mandating vaccines for their healthcare workers, what about doing the same for firefighters? 

“I don’t know for us, we’re a part of not only the Wake County EMS system, but the local government as well,” Perry said.

“I’d hate to see it mandatory and then we lose firefighters because of it. We’re already having a hard time filling vacant positions,” Wendell Fire Chief Brian Staples said.

All three explained they began following the revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and have begun wearing masks on all medical calls and in the fire house.

“We took the step to return to wearing respirator, the N95 mask on our medical calls today,” McGee said.

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