After Objecting to State Mandate, Vashon Island Fire Chief Says He Got Vaccinated

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Despite his objections to Gov. Jay Inslee's vaccine mandate, Vashon Island Fire Chief Charles Krimmert announced last week he received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

Krimmert, subject to Washington's vaccine requirement for health care workers — including firefighters — requested Vashon Island Fire & Rescue commissioners to change his job description last month to stay on as chief without being vaccinated.

The news about his vaccination status led to widespread public discourse among the island community, which ranks among the highest vaccinated parts of Washington state, with calls for his resignation as well as praise for his stance.

But Krimmert's request was denied, he wrote in a letter Thursday addressed to commissioners, staff and volunteers explaining his decision to get vaccinated.

Ultimately, he said, he got vaccinated due to multiple reasons including not wanting to leave the job and lose his salary and pension.

"I did not want to leave the District in the lurch after putting five years of blood, sweat and tears into the job. ... I love doing this job and I want to keep doing it," he wrote.

Krimmert said he thought he could safely serve by following the COVID-19 precautions implemented since the onset of the pandemic, and that no Vashon Island Fire first responder has contracted the virus through work.

"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," he wrote.

The governor's mandate made Krimmert feel "trapped and angry" and he said he wanted to apologize for his comments at a recent commissioner's meeting and to the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, which first reported on the issue.

He wrote he regretted not doing a better job of explaining his decision.

Board Chair Andy Johnson told The Seattle Times on Friday the board was primarily worried about unvaccinated health care providers violating Inslee's proclamation, but the chief's decision satisfies their concerns.

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