Story at a glance:
- The Tennessee Department of Health fired a department director for promoting teen vaccinations without the need for parental permission.
- The department will also stop hosting COVID-19 outreach events at schools.
- Less than 40 percent of Tennessee is vaccinated against COVID-19.
After firing Michelle Fiscus, formerly the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs, for a memo that reportedly suggested some teenagers could get vaccines without parental permission, the Tennessee Department of Health is halting all vaccination outreach to teens.
The 34-page memo, reported The New York Times, sparked outrage from conservatives who thought Fiscus was using her agency to pressure youth into getting vaccinated.
The department will reportedly stop hosting COVID-19 outreach events at schools, and it will no longer send postcards or notifications to teens to get their second dose. Staff will also be required to strip the agency’s logo from any guidance about vaccinations, The Guardian reported.
“Being a trustworthy messenger means we are mindful of hesitancy and the intense national conversation that is affecting how many families evaluate vaccinations in general,” a department spokesman told the Guardian.
“Tennessee is on solid footing when it comes to childhood immunizations and will continue to keep information and programming in place for parents. We are simply mindful of how certain tactics could hurt that progress.”
Less than 40 percent of Tennessee is vaccinated against COVID-19, making it one of the many Southern states to fall behind the national average. The rise of new coronavirus cases in Tennessee is being attributed to the new, highly transmissible delta variant. The state reports 3,214 active cases, including 125 cases of the delta variant and a death toll of 12,596.
Fiscus, a pediatrician, alleged she was fired because “some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation” and stated she was “afraid for my state,” the Guardian reported.
“It was MY job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against Covid-19,” Fiscus said. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”
The department has not commented publicly on the official reason for her termination.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA