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Tennessee governor says ‘parents, not kids’ focus of vaccine outreach after firing of top health official

Tennessee governor says 'parents, not kids' focus of vaccine outreach after firing of top health official


Tennessee governor says ‘parents, not kids’ focus of vaccine outreach after firing of top health official

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is pushing back against claims about his youth vaccination program days after the state’s top vaccination official was fired for allegedly sharing factual information with doctors about the legalities of vaccinating un-emancipated minors without parental consent. The Tennessee Democratic Party has called for Dr. Michelle Fiscus to be reinstated, and for the governor “to recommit the Tennessee Department of Health to carrying out its mission to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee,” WMC reported. Despite what Lee’s office described as “misleading reporting,” the state’s Department of Health “has not halted the Vaccines for Children Program that provides information and vaccine access to Tennessee parents,” a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement to WMC. “The department is mindful of ensuring parents, not kids, are the intended audience for any outreach efforts regarding medical decisions for children and has simply re-evaluated some tactics like reminder postcards and follow-up communications,” according to the governor’s office. COVID-19 SAW MILLIONS MISS CHILDHOOD VACCINATIONS, WHO WARNS Fiscus said Monday she was given the option to be fired or resign, but she chose “to be terminated because I hadn’t done anything wrong.” She told WTVF she believed she lost her job to appease GOP state lawmakers after she distributed information to doctors about the Mature Minor Doctrine, which permits health care providers to treat certain minors without parental consent, according to the “Rule of Sevens.” The state health department says the rule allows doctors to treat minors age 14 and older without parental consent “unless the physician believes that the minor is not sufficiently mature to make his or her own health care decisions.” Fiscus said the health department’s attorney provided a letter about the doctrine based on a 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling and that her job was to explain what is allowable.”While childhood immunization rates temporarily dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are already seeing vaccination rates rebound to pre-pandemic levels and will continue supporting parents who are working to get their families back on track,” the governor’s spokesperson said. 
In this image made from video, Michelle Fiscus speaks to the Associated Press, from Franklin, Tennessee, on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.  (AP Photo)
The program, which includes immunizations DTap, MMR, Polio, Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B, “will continue to be successfully administered,” the statement added. According to the governor’s office, Tennessee ranked among the top 10 states for MMR vaccination coverage among kindergartners during the 2019-2020 school year, and 95.3% of 2020-2021 kindergarten students in Tennessee were fully immunized. For more than a decade, Tennessee has had above 90% coverage of kindergarten students receiving childhood immunizations, including DTap, MMR, polio, chicken pox, Hepatitis B, Lee’s office said. Fiscus said that before her termination leadership at the state health department had instructed the department to “no longer do outreach around immunizations for children of any kind,” WMC reported. “That’s infant immunizations, HPV immunization in a state that has one of the highest HPV cancer rates in the country. Flu vaccine outreach in schools has been canceled,” she said. A health department situation report, first obtained by WSMV in Nashville, said that Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey had recently directed department employees not to hold any immunization event in or on school property or hold any COVID-19 vaccine events at organizations whose clientele are solely children.Sarah Tanksley, a spokesperson for Piercey, told the Associated Press the agency had “in no way halted the immunizations for children program” and stressed that the state will continue to support vaccine outreach efforts. Tanksley added the state is “mindful of hesitancy” surrounding vaccinations and pointed out the department intends to recognize National Immunization Awareness Month.Only 38% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, lagging behind much of the nation, according to the Associated Press. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPState Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said the change was “dangerous and terrifying,” arguing the move by the state health department provided “an example of politics leading our public health department. That is a problem. That is an abdication of leadership.”Shelby County Health Department, which serves Memphis and operates independently from the state, said the new state health department rule would not affect their vaccine outreach. Shelby County Schools said it will continue to advise students, parents and families to get the COVID-19 vaccine.Separately, Fiscus’s husband, Brad Fiscus, told The Tennessean that his wife received an Amazon package containing a muzzle about a week before her firing – thought it’s unclear who sent the item. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security are investigating the incident. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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