US Top Tennessee COVID-19 vaccine official says she was terminated
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The top state vaccination official in Tennessee said she was terminated on Monday for no reason but claimed she was being used as a scapegoat to please state lawmakers upset about her department's efforts to increase vaccinations among teenagers,.
Michelle Fiscus, medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health, told The Tennessean that she was fired Monday afternoon. Her termination comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state.
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"It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19," Fiscus told the newspaper in a statement. "I have now been terminated for doing exactly that."
The Tennessean notes that state lawmakers criticized Fiscus by name last month during a committee hearing, expressing anger over a letter she had sent to medical providers about the "Mature Minor Doctrine," which allows minors over the age of 14 to get vaccinated without their parents' consent.
This legal mechanism has been in place since 1987 and has been publicly available online since 2008.
With Fiscus' termination, the Volunteer State joins around two dozen other states that have been left without a top vaccine authority, all for various reasons but most often because the official left.
Tennessee's vaccine manager fired over vaccinating kids against Covid
The top vaccine official for the state of Tennessee said she was fired after an argument over vaccinating children against coronavirus. © Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel/Imagn Content Services From left Marissa Dixon, an employee at University of Tennessee's student health center, and Mateasha Edwards of South College draw coronavirus vaccines in the student union at the University of Tennessee, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Now Dr.
A spokeswoman for the state health department told The Tennessean that it would not comment on Fiscus' firing.
Fiscus shared awith The Tennessean following her firing on Monday.
In it, she wrote she would "not sit quietly by while our public health infrastructure is eroded in the midst of a pandemic."
"We are a group of dedicated public health professionals who have worked endless hours to make COVID-19 vaccines, the ONE tool we have to effectively end the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, available to every person in our jurisdictions," she wrote, bemoaning how health experts have been "disparaged, demeaned, accused, and sometimes vilified" by the public throughout the pandemic.
"I am not a political operative, I am a physician who was, until today, charged with protecting the people of Tennessee, including its children, against preventable diseases like COVID-19," Fiscus added.
Opinion: Tennessee vaccine official's story reveals an ugly truth about GOP and children's rights
Jill Filipovic writes that the danger inherent in ideological partisan divides over Covid-19 vaccination is evident in Tennessee, where the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus reinforces the enduring irony that the GOP, the "pro-life" party, doesn't believe that children, including teens, have basic rights to preserve their well-being, separate from their parents' wishes or consent.The Donald Trump-fueled descent of the GOP into a party of reality-rejecting, science-denying conspiracy theorists is well-documented, and a growing phenomenon, as the extreme factions of the party overtake or push out the relatively few moderate Republicans remaining.
Democratic Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson spoke out against Fiscus' firing on Twitter, writing, "Science denying TNGOP legislators demanded a sacrifice to their anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-fact ideology & a great woman, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who worked tirelessly for Tennesseans every day during the pandemic was fired by
@GovBillLee to appease those who deny data & research."
Science denying TNGOP legislators demanded a sacrifice to their anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-fact ideology & a great woman, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who worked tirelessly for Tennesseans every day during the pandemic was fired by- Gloria Johnson (@VoteGloriaJ) to appease those who deny data & research.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health's, over 870,000 cases and more than 12,000 related deaths are believed to have occurred in the state. Cases began to fall after COVID-19 vaccines were deployed, however they have recently begun to rise again. Over 500 new cases were reported last week, the first time since May.
The state's vaccination rate has remained low in comparison to the national rate. Less than half of Tennessee's population - 42.5 percent - has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and 38 percent are fully vaccinated.
Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job .
Family, friends and even health care providers are the most effective at nudging vaccine-hesitant Americans toward vaccination.As the death rate rises for the first time in months, with a seven-day 70 percent increase in cases and a hospitalization spike of 36 percent, both state and local governments are scrambling for a solution that protects Americans and encourages the unvaccinated to get their jabs. On Saturday night, Los Angeles County reinstituted a sweeping indoor mask mandate, which has been decried by those on the right and the left as anti-science and flying in the face of CDC guidance.