The following was written by Derek Gersonde
As firefighters and first responders, we are used to putting our lives before that of others. The long shifts and hours we work can also take its toll, not just on ourselves, but on our families.
We understand the importance of the roles we play in our community, and the risks involved – whether it is going into a burning building, responding to horrific accidents, or transporting patients who may have COVID-19, tuberculosis, or some other communicable disease that could be passed onto us. We answered the calls, with no hesitation or question. We have obeyed the commands of our chiefs and commissioners in the line of duty. However, forcing us to get vaccinated is where some of us, myself included, have decided to draw the line.
We are not anti-vaxxers, nor are we anti-science. But we are extremely concerned about the fact that we are being mandated to take a vaccine that is not FDA approved, nor as effective as it was originally believed to be when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID. Within our local community, we have already confirmed there are at least two positive cases of COVID in which both individuals were fully vaccinated, yet they tested positive and possibly could have further transmitted the virus without knowing, as they were asymptomatic.
I am not in a high-risk category. I do all I can to stay healthy, which included a good diet and plenty of exercise. I have no co-morbidities or risk factors. Yet, I am being forced to take this vaccine. Of course, I could be exempted from it if I did in fact have an existing health condition or through a religious exemption, which means I could still be fully employed as a firefighter. So in a sense, I am being penalized for the mere fact that I do not have any health problems, nor choose to use religion as an excuse to exempt myself from this vaccine. By being honest and concerned about the possible future effects this vaccine may have on my body, I am being terminated, fired from a career that I have fully invested in. I have done nothing criminal or illegal, yet I am being treated like one, as are my brothers who chose not to take the vaccine. This is unfair, demoralizing, and goes against the core democratic values we all should be embracing.
The fact that we have had individuals in the CNMI that were fully vaccinated and were still able to not only contract COVID-19 but also able to spread COVID-19 raises even more concerns.
Religion does not tell me not to take this vaccine. My heart, conscience, and body is telling me not to. If something just does not feel right, why must I be forced into doing it?
As of April 13, 2021, there have been 147 positive cases with 2 deaths documented. Please forgive me for saying this, but we have had far more of our people die of diabetes and heart disease than COVID-19 in 2021. Shall we mandate and force our most vulnerable, our man’amko and our immunocompromised, to not only get the vaccine, but choose what they can and cannot eat? Where do we go from here?
For the past ten years, I have proudly served the DFEMS in a variety of roles: as a firefighter, EMT, first responder, and as the DFEMS public information officer and am grateful. Commissioner Dennis Mendiola wants us to "not complain but comply.” But I cannot remain silent and comply with something that goes against my beliefs and principles. Thank you.
Derek Gersonde was one of several veteran firefighters and first responders, who was fired by Gov. Ralph Torres recently.