Breaking news: Vashon fire chief, who objected to mandate, gets vaccinated

In a letter to commissioners, paid staff and volunteers, Krimmert explained his decision.

Vashon Fire Chief Charles Krimmert, who islanders learned was unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers including firefighters, announced today that he has received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination at Vashon Pharmacy on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

In a letter to Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) commissioners, paid staff and volunteers, Krimmert explained his reasoning for getting the shot, despite his objections to the governor’s mandate and the fact that he had not previously been vaccinated.

In mid-August, Krimmert asked VIFR commissioners to release him from his duty to serve as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), due to his objection to the mandate, so that he could continue to serve as the district’s chief,

The commissioners voted on Sept. 1 to deny the request to change his job description, effectively closing the door on Krimmert’s continued employment in the district unless he became vaccinated.

Since the news of Krimmert’s vaccination status began public knowledge, many islanders have weighed in on social media, in public comments at commissioner meetings, and in letters to both the district and The Beachcomber, with the majority being highly critical of the chief’s decision not to become vaccinated and his opposition to the governor’s mandate.

The story of Krimmert’s stance on vaccination has also garnered media coverage in The Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and KOMO-TV news.

Notably, as VIFR’s chief, Krimmert has served as incident commander of Vashon’s response to the pandemic. In that capacity, he has overseen the efforts of the island’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), including the establishment of the island’s vaccination and testing sites.

The EOC and MRC have repeatedly urged all eligible islanders to become vaccinated, citing the efficacy and safety of the vaccines and the public health benefits of vaccination.

As a high-risk health care provider, Krimmert has been eligible for vaccination since December of 2020.

Currently, 95% of island residents ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 85.7% of those 12 and older have received two doses.

Following is the complete text of Krimmert’s Sept. 23 letter to VIFR commissioners, staff and volunteers.

Colleagues:

I was vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Vashon Pharmacy Tuesday, September 21st.

I realize that much of what you have been learning about me not being vaccinated, and not wanting to be vaccinated, has been through the media. It’s time for me to speak with you directly to fill you in on what’s happened over the last few weeks. It has been a very challenging time for the Fire District and the community, and you deserve an update.

People have asked why I did not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot. Yes, I was hesitant. I was not sure the COVID vaccine was the right choice for me. I’ve been vaccinated against many other diseases but this vaccine concerned me. I’m still concerned, even though I have now received the Johnson & Johnson injection. I knew I could safely serve by following our standing COVID protocols; we’ve followed them since the beginning of the pandemic, a full year before vaccine was available. To this day, no patient or VIFR responder has contracted COVID in the field. The safety protocols work, but then the Governor issued Proclamation 21-14 and they no longer appear to be enough.

With Proclamation 21-14, the Governor issued his vaccination mandate. At that point I no longer had the option of making a personal and private choice about my health care. This was upsetting, to be forced into a situation when there was another way to handle this. Other states have offered alternatives of weekly testing for those who had concerns about the COVID vaccine. As you know, the Commissioners decided not to agree with my request to relieve me of EMT duties so the Governor’s proclamation applied to me. I felt trapped and angry.

So, please accept my apology that my anger got the better of me. I made some regrettable remarks to the Beachcomber and at a Commissioner’s meeting. Looking back, I wish I had done a better job of explaining myself.

So, if I feel this way, why would I now get the vaccine? Like a lot of decisions, there are layers of reasons.

I did not want to leave the District in the lurch after putting five years of blood, sweat and tears into the job. We have worked hard to bring the District back from the brink of bankruptcy and improve it and grow it. We worked together to meet this historic pandemic challenge and it’s not a good time to change leadership while we still face the Delta spike and who knows what is yet to come.

I love doing this job and I want to keep doing it. The fact is, I need to keep doing this job because it is in my heart and nature. There’s also no denying that I had no plans in place to suddenly have my salary and pension taken from me and that contributed to my dilemma.

What happens next? Well, I’ve informed the Commissioners that I’m vaccinated. There have been demands that they fire me, I hope they will not. If they do not, I am prepared to continue into my 22nd year of service to the community and hope that you are interested and willing to join me in growing Vashon Island Fire and Rescue.

Thank you. I am happy to discuss the matter further if you wish to. Thank you for all you do for the District and the community, take care, be safe.

Charles H. Krimmert, Fire Chief

This is a developing story.


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