Tennessee official drops vaccine outreach for kids — for all diseases — under GOP pressure: report

Tennessee official drops vaccine outreach for kids — for all diseases — under GOP pressure: report
United States Census / Wikimedia Commons

A person, wearing gloves and a surgical mask, handles a COVID-19 Vaccine vial and syringe.

The politically-ambitious Commissioner of the Tennessee Dept. of Health, Dr. Lisa Piercey, on Monday fired the official in charge of vaccines. On Tuesday she banned outreach on any vaccines – not just coronavirus – to any minors. Among the programs eliminated are official communications, like vaccination reminders, and COVID-19 events at schools.

Dr. Piercey is a pediatrician.

Among the steps Dr. Piercey is taking this week is banning the Department from sending out postcards reminding minors to get their second coronavirus shot.

Tennessee state law allows minors 14 years or older to get vaccinated or access other health services without the permission of a parent.`

"The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers," The Tennessean reports, citing an internal report and agency emails it has obtained. "If the health department must issue any information about vaccines, staff are instructed to strip the agency logo off the documents."

"The health department will also stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property, despite holding at least one such event this month. The decisions to end vaccine outreach and school events come directly from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, the internal report states."

Postcards will still be sent to adults, but teens will be excluded from the mailing list so the postcards are not "potentially interpreted as solicitation to minors," the report states.

The official Commissioner Piercey fired was Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs. The Tennessean reports her termination letter cited no reason for her firing.

Tennessean reporter Natalie Allison noted on Twitter that Commissioner Piercey says she wants to run for office some day.

Tennessee's Republican Governor Bill Lee holds one of the nation's worst records for response to the coronavirus pandemic. The state ranks sixth in cases per capita, and 34th in testing per capita.

And it's getting worse. Over the past two weeks, The Tennessean notes, the daily average number of new coronavirus cases has doubled.

In 2019, before the pandemic Governor Lee told Tennessee residents stopping school shootings and the opioid epidemic was up to them, and they could do so by praying.

In 2017, according to the CDC, vaccines stopped 732,000 children from dying across a 20-year period.

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