NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Republican lawmakers today denied claims they’re discouraging people from getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and that they’re trying to discourage parents from vaccinating their children.
The criticism began with the termination of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, medical director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health.
Fiscus claimed she was fired because of political pressure from Republican lawmakers angry over the Tennessee Department of Health’s efforts to market the COVID-19 vaccine with hopes of increasing vaccination rates among children.
Currently, two of the three available vaccines are approved for children 12 and up.
But at a meeting of the Joint Government Operations Committee in Nashville today, lawmakers pushed back against claims the state has halted vaccine outreach efforts.
“We have not discouraged Tennesseans from being vaccinated nor have we discouraged Tennesseans from having their children vaccinated,” said Tennessee state Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), chairman of the Joint Government Operations Committee. “Further, it has been widely misrepresented that all children’s vaccines have come to a halt. To be absolutely clear, Tennessee’s efforts on childhood vaccinations are unchanged. The only exception is administering a COVID-19 vaccination without parental consent.”
“To be clear, the Tennessee Department of Health was not asked to stop vaccinating children nor have they stopped vaccinating children for COVID-19 or any other disease,” said Roberts in a statement read during the committee meeting in Nashville. “Rather, they were asked to stop vaccinating children for COVID-19 without parental consent and stop marketing to minors.”
State Rep. Vincent Dixie (D- Chattanooga) asked if anyone else would be allowed to speak during the hearing. Roberts said no public comment would be allowed.
“Just for the record – I want to let you know that we as Democrats don’t agree with that statement,” said Rep. Dixie, chairman of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus.”
In a statement issued after the hearing, the Tennessee Republican Caucus said two ranking Republican lawmakers and a member of the governor’s staff met privately with the Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey on June 16 and were assured it is not the policy of the state to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children without a parent’s consent. And the caucus said Commissioner Piercey also “detailed the steps taken to stop any marketing directed at minors.”