Fact check: False claim unvaccinated FEMA workers can replace fired health care staff

·3 min read

The claim: Unvaccinated FEMA employees can replace health care workers fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine

When COVID-19 vaccines were made available in the U.S., front-line health care workers were first in line for the shot. Since then, most nurses and doctors have been fully vaccinated, but some have been fired for refusing to comply with mandates.

Some social media users are claiming noncompliant medical professionals are being replaced by unvaccinated Federal Emergency Management Agency employees.

“BREAKING: The FEMA healthcare workers replacing the noncompliant nurses and doctors are NOT required to get vaccinated via CDC,” reads a screenshot of a tweet that was shared to Instagram on Oct. 18. The original Oct. 16 tweet generated more than 5,000 retweets in less than a week.

Other versions of the claim have made their way to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blogs. The posts echo false claims about unvaccinated National Guard members replacing nurses in New York, which USA TODAY debunked.

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These posts are inaccurate, too. They have been debunked by independent fact-checking organizations.

USA TODAY reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.

FEMA employees required to be vaccinated

This claim is wrong on multiple counts.

In early September, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Nov. 22. The order applies to FEMA workers.

The agency is also not sending its employees to replace unvaccinated health care workers, according to FEMA spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg.

Nurse practitioner Lisa Flemmons takes a selfie as she receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.
Nurse practitioner Lisa Flemmons takes a selfie as she receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

"FEMA employees are required to be vaccinated as determined by the president," Rothenberg told USA TODAY. “The social media posts that claim FEMA workers are replacing unvaccinated health care workers are unequivocally false.”

She added that, in partnership with other federal agencies, FEMA has deployed medical staff at the request of states to relieve pressure on local health care systems.

This isn't the first time social media users have falsely claimed replacement workers for terminated medical professionals do not have to follow vaccine requirements.

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When New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced she would call on medically trained members of the National Guard to address staffing shortages, some asserted nurses fired for refusing a COVID-19 shot could be replaced by unvaccinated Guard members. USA TODAY rated that claim false.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that unvaccinated FEMA employees can replace health care workers fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. FEMA says its workers are not being deployed to replace noncompliant nurses and doctors. Additionally, employees with the agency are required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under Biden's executive order.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: FEMA workers not replacing unvaccinated doctors, nurses

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