Tennessee Stops All Youth Vaccine Outreach After GOP Backlash

This applies to all routine vaccines, not just COVID-19 vaccines
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2021 6:16 AM CDT
Updated Jul 14, 2021 6:52 AM CDT
Tennessee Stops All Youth Vaccine Outreach After GOP Backlash
In this image made from video, Michelle Fiscus speaks to the Associated Press, from Franklin, Tenn., on Tuesday.   (AP Photo)

Internal documents show the Tennessee Department of Health has ended all vaccine outreach to minors—not just related to COVID-19. This comes days after the state's top vaccination official said she was fired to appease Republican state lawmakers upset by a department memo mentioning a long-standing doctrine that allows minors over 14 to be vaccinated without parental consent. Some lawmakers suggested dissolving the department in response. Instead, the department fired Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who said she'd only shared information from the department's attorney, and stopped adolescent vaccination outreach for all diseases. In a Monday email, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Jones told department staff to conduct "no proactive outreach regarding routine vaccines" and "no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine," per the Nashville Tennessean.

This means an end to outreach that would normally occur during August's National Immunization Awareness Month, per CNN. Jones directed staff to avoid "pre-planning" for flu shots events at schools and said the sharing of information on back-to-school vaccinations would fall to the state Department of Education. This followed a Friday report noting the department would end COVID-19 vaccine events at schools and stop sending teenagers reminder notices about second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as this could be "potentially interpreted as solicitation to minors." A department rep tells the Tennesseean that the directives from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey come as vaccination efforts are "perceived by some to give the wrong impression regarding parental consent." But "the effort to vaccinate individuals who choose to receive it continues." (COVID-19 cases are rising in the US, due in part to younger, unvaccinated people.)

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