General Hospital star Steve Burton was fired from the soap opera on Tuesday after he refused the COVID-19 vaccine mandated for all actors on the show.
Burton’s character Jason Morgan (previously Jason Quartermaine) had been a regular on the show since 1992, except for a brief hiatus from 2013 to 2017, when he had a multi-year arc on The Young and the Restless.
The 51-year-old actor confirmed his departure from the show in a video posted on Instagram.
“I know there’s been a lot of rumours and speculation about me and General Hospital, and I wanted you to hear it from me personally,” said Burton in a brief video post. “Unfortunately, General Hospital has let me go because of the vaccine mandate.”
“This is also about personal freedom to me,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should lose their livelihood over this.”
“Maybe one day, if these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan,” said the two-time Emmy winner. “That would be an honour. If not, I’m going to take this amazing experience, move forward and be forever grateful.”
The actor also noted that his application for an exemption based on medical or religious reasons was denied. Burton had tested positive for COVID-19 in August; at the time, he said that he was “exposed at work.”
Burton is not the first of the cast to leave General Hospital due to the COVID-19 mandate. Ingo Rademacher, his costar, resigned on his own volition the day before as he did not want to be vaccinated.
50-year-old Rademacher played Jasper “Jax” Jacks on the soap since 1996. Reports claim that the actor is openly opposed to be vaccine mandate imposed by ABC via its parent company, Disney.
However, General Hospital is not the first production to have a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Many Hollywood productions currently have vaccine mandates in place following multiple shutdowns and delays resulting from COVID-19 outbreaks.
On Monday, Rademacher’s character bid farewell to the show while Burton shot his last episode on Oct. 27.
ABC representatives have declined to comment on the matter.