Along the way, we have been disparaged, demeaned, accused and sometimes vilified by a public who chooses not to believe in science. — Dr. Michelle Fiscus
Along the way, we have been disparaged, demeaned, accused and sometimes vilified by a public who chooses not to believe in science. — Dr. Michelle Fiscus
Top Tennessee Vaccine Official Says She Was Fired Over Shots for Teens
Michelle Fiscus, that state’s immunization leader, was only the latest state public health official to depart amid the pandemic.

First came public service ads alerting teenagers in Tennessee that they were eligible to get vaccinated for Covid-19. Then, the state’s top immunization leader, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, distributed a memo that suggested some teenagers might be eligible for vaccinations without their parents’ consent.

By this week, Dr. Fiscus said she was fired — a circumstance she attributed to pushback among Republican lawmakers in the state, who have complained that the Tennessee Department of Health had gone too far in its efforts to raise awareness of the shot among young people.

Dr. Fiscus, the health department’s medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs, is one of scores of public health officials across the United States who have quit or been forced from their jobs in a pandemic that was unlike anything they had tackled before and in a political climate that has grown increasingly split over the coronavirus and the vaccines.

A review published in December by Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press found that at least 181 state and local public health leaders in 38 states had resigned, retired or been fired since April 1, 2020.

“It’s just a huge symptom of just how toxic the whole political landscape has become,” Dr. Fiscus said in an interview on Tuesday. “This virus is apolitical — it doesn’t care who you are or where you live or which president you preferred.” Still, she added, “It’s just been a very difficult thing for us to overcome.”


... Campaigns to raise awareness about the vaccines have not resonated in parts of Tennessee, where a hesitance has hardened especially among white, rural conservatives, Dr. Fiscus said. “It seems like there’s nothing that we can do to to get the message through,” she said.

Anger from lawmakers intensified after the memo by Dr. Fiscus was circulated to medical providers explaining a so-called mature minor doctrine, which allows doctors to treat patients between the ages of 14 and 18 without parental consent under a State Supreme Court ruling from 1987. The memo repeated information that has been publicly available on the health department’s website for years.

... “Nobody else in this state needs to die from Covid-19 because we have effective vaccines,” she said. “And the fact that we have elected and appointed officials that are putting barriers up to protecting those Tennesseans is, I think, it’s unforgivable.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/13/us/michelle-fiscus-tennessee-vaccine.html