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Unvaccinated Redmond firefighters criticize city's handling of vaccine mandate

A group of unvaccinated firefighters claim the city agreed to workplace accommodations under a religious exemption, but later changed its mind.

REDMOND, Wash. — Redmond firefighters and their families are criticizing the city's handling of a mandate requiring certain first responders to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

They claim the city agreed to workplace accommodations under a religious exemption but later changed its mind.

Washington state requires firefighters who are paramedics to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be approved for a religious or medical exemption by Oct. 18.

KING 5 talked with spouses of Redmond firefighters who spoke on their partners’ behalf because they said the firefighters are not allowed to talk with journalists.

They said roughly 20 to 30 firefighters declined to get vaccinated. Several of them said the city approved religious exemptions and a set of accommodations, like daily COVID-19 testing, which would have allowed them to keep working.

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But they claim the city abruptly changed its mind this week and will no longer allow those accommodations.

“We are strong in our convictions and religious beliefs. It's not just a cop-out or something, this is truly what we believe,” said Amanda Parnell, whose husband Tyler has been a Redmond firefighter for more than six years.

She said they are not getting vaccinated because of their Christian beliefs.

“We get to choose what we do with our body, and if we don't feel that that's something that's good for our body, we should have the choice not to do it,” said Amanda Parnell.

The city of Redmond declined to comment on the issue, calling it a personnel matter. The city said it was following state and county recommendations and mandates.

The state of Washington said the vaccine is the single most effective resource it has to combat the spread of COVID-19, as well as prevent illness and death.

Families of the Redmond firefighters said the city needs to honor the exemption and accommodations.

“How can you go back on your word? If you can’t honor your word, what can you honor? What kind of a person are you? I just don't get it,” said Tracy Robillard, whose husband Brian is a 28-year veteran of the fire department and is three years short of retirement.

They said the threat of losing their income won't compel them to get the shot.

“We can't. It's our strongly held religious belief, and our faith is in God, not in man, so we're going to hold our ground, we have to,” said Tracy Robillard.

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