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Is the battle against vaccine mandates harming the image of firefighters?

As 500 from LAFD sue city, columnist believes firefighters are turning & running instead of serving and protecting

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In Los Angeles more than 500 members of the fire department are suing the city over a Covid-19 vaccine mandate:

Cameron Kiszia, KTLA-TV:

The L.A. City Council approved a vaccine mandate for city employees last month, and Friday, 529 firefighters sued as a nonprofit collective called the Firefighters4Freedom Foundation. It follows a federal lawsuit filed last weekend by L.A. police officers in an attempt to overturn the requirement.

The firefighters are seeking a temporary restraining order to block the city’s vaccine mandate from going into effect “until a preliminary injunction hearing in this matter and further order of this Court,” the foundation’s attorneys wrote in a copy of the filing provided by Kevin McBride, one of the attorneys representing the firefighters.

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Similar battles over vaccine mandates for fire and EMS are playing out across the country. Whether those fighting the mandates prevail or not isn’t the only question surrounding this issue. There’s also the potential of a political cost for those in fire and EMS and a loss of stature and confidence in the eyes of the public.

In Washington, DC, two firefighters organizing resistance to a health department vaccine mandate for licensed providers tried to drum up support among elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. So far, that support hasn’t materialized. Back in Los Angeles, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez says firefighters and police are suing for the right to put themselves and public at risk. Lopez looked at a private social media page where neighboring Los Angeles County firefighters discussed the mandates:

Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist:

“All those MF on BOS need to be thrown out!” said one post, which suggested supervisors were in closed session so they could kiss the rear end of Gov. Gavin Newsom. “They are ALL ENEMIES OF FIRST RESPONDERS!”

Actually, politicians and the general public tend to be anything but enemies of first responders, who are often characterized as heroes. But the vaccine resisters are squandering that goodwill by rejecting the simplest, safest and most effective remedy for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.

A retired cop and firefighter told me he felt lucky and privileged to work for taxpayers in the interest of public health and safety. Those who resist the vaccine took an oath, and “they are betraying those same citizens they swore to protect.”

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Lopez believes those who took an oath to serve and protect “are instead turning and running.” In today’s environment, I imagine it will be easy for those fighting the mandates to dismiss the opinion of someone in the news media. They may not give it a second thought or lump him in with the politicians they look at as enemies.

But what if the general public believes the same thing about fire and EMS? Are the people public safety serves even a part of the discussion for those mounting anti-mandate efforts? Will the public just look past this and still see firefightes, EMTs and paramedics as the heroes they’ve always been or will they see fighting against vaccine requirements as a stance that isn’t very heroic?

I don’t have good answers to those questions but I do know this: In the 21st Century reputations can be destroyed at the speed of light.

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