State Watch

Ex-top Tennessee COVID-19 vaccine official says she was sent dog muzzle before firing

Tennessee’s former top COVID-19 vaccine official says she was sent a dog muzzle before she was fired.

Michelle Fiscus was terminated from the Tennessee Department of Health on Monday, alleging she was used as a scapegoat to please state lawmakers who were upset about the agency’s efforts to increase vaccinations among teenagers.

Fiscus told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday that she was sent the dog muzzle a week before she was fired, which at first she thought was a joke. 

“At first, I thought that was a joke and contacted a few friends. And then when no one claimed it realized it was something that was sent to me as some kind of a message, I suppose,” Fiscus said. 

“They obviously didn’t know me because they sent me a size 3, which is for beagles, and I’m obviously a pitbull, which requires a size 6,” she recalled quipping to her husband.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security confirmed to The Hill that it is investigating “an incident involving Dr. Michelle Fiscus being sent a muzzle.” 

State lawmakers criticized Fiscus over a letter she sent to medical providers about a legal mechanism that allows minors over the age of 14 to get vaccinated without parent’s consent.

The doctrine, called the Mature Minor Doctrine, had been around since 1987 and publicly available on the health department’s website since 2008.

Asked to reflect on her experience, Fiscus told Cooper that it was “maddening” and “frustrating.”

“It is maddening and frustrating. This is politics getting in the way of public health. And political agendas, whatever they maybe, that is obstructing our ability to prevent disease in this state,” she said.

Tennessee’s Health Department reportedly plans to halt outreach on promoting vaccines for adolescents against all diseases, including COVID-19, the flu and HPV.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43.1 percent of the population has had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 38.2 percent have been fully vaccinated.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Michelle Fiscus Tennessee

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