Firefighter Answers: Are Firefighters Required to Be Vaccinated?

In late 2020, COVID-19 vaccinations began rolling out, becoming widely available in 2021. Today, anyone can walk in and get a COVID-19 vaccine if they wish, but is it required for firefighters?

Fire departments or cities can establish the rules around vaccinations. Many departments will require proof of specific vaccinations prior to getting hired. Those vaccinations can vary depending on the department and their specific requirements.

This article will examine fire department policies around vaccinations, so don’t miss it!

Are Firefighters Required To Take The COVID Vaccine?

Generally, no, but it depends on the department and city you work for. Many large city departments required it, but have since dropped their mandates. When COVID vaccines first became available many cities and counties required all public employees to be vaccinated.

From 2020 to late 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world, leading to innumerable business closures, stay-at-home orders, and life as we knew it to grind to a halt. Jobs became divided by essential and inessential personnel.

Firefighters were always deemed essential personnel, so they kept working even when many other jobs did not. 

Fire departments could decide at their discretion whether firefighters require the COVID vaccine. COVID vaccines have become a politically divisive topic, so you could understand the hesitancy of some fire departments to require it.

However, that assumes that the fire department has the right to dictate whether firefighters on the job need a vaccine in the first place. Citywide or statewide COVID vaccine mandates would take precedence, meaning the fire department has to defer to those rules.

Today, the citywide and statewide vaccine mandates are vanishing quickly as COVID rates have dropped and the WHO has ended its emergency precautions. Now, many fire departments more flexibility to decide whether firefighters need the vaccine.

Are Firefighters Required to Take Other Vaccines? 

Again, depending on the department they may recommend or require proof of specific vaccination.

For example, many firefighters are also EMTs or Paramedics. Many EMS workers are required to have a Hepatitis B vaccine as they frequently come in contact with foreign bodily fluids like blood.

Many departments will require new firefighters to either show proof of the vaccinations prior to hiring or simply require the firefighter to get the vaccine prior to their start date. In the case of a series of vaccines (like Hepatitis B) some departments will allow you to begin working as you are getting you series of shots.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Vaccinated as a Firefighter?

With discontinued city and statewide mandates, receiving a COVID vaccine as a firefighter is once again up to the individual member of the department or the department as a whole.

COVID’s lessening threat means there shouldn’t be any negative outcomes for those who choose not to get the vaccine and work today. 

However, at the height of the pandemic, many firefighters who didn’t receive a vaccine when mandated by their city or state were fired from their job.

What if a firefighter refused even though it was required for them to receive the vaccine? Again, we doubt that a firefighter would be put into such a position in 2023, as COVID has largely waned.

That said, if any existing mandates are still in effect—including those by a fire department, city, or state—generally firefighters will not be fired or refused employment for their refusal to get the shot.

Again, this depends on the department and the governing laws in that area.

Bottom line, COVID-19 changed the landscape of life as we know it as the 2020s got underway. Several years after the threat of the pandemic has passed, life for many people is still returning back to normal.

Some ways of life—like five days a week in an office or dealing with delivery drivers when we can request contact-free delivery—haven’t resumed, but that’s okay. Few people miss them. 

Fire departments had the authority to dictate whether firefighters could receive the COVID vaccine. Some fire districts also had similar say. However, citywide or statewide vaccine mandates would have superseded a fire department’s power.

Today, with COVID far less of a threat than in years past, most vaccine mandates have been discontinued, so a firefighter can choose whether they want the vaccine. Generally, they will not be fired from their job no matter their decision.