- A Tennessee health official was fired after trying to get teens vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Michelle Fiscus was criticized by GOP lawmakers who wanted to restrict teens from getting the shots.
- The Delta variant of the coronavirus is currently rapidly spreading through the state.
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Michelle Fiscus says she was fired as Tennessee’s top vaccine official to appease Republicans who opposed her bid to allow teenagers to choose whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fiscus, in a searing op-ed published in The Tennessean newspaper, attacked lawmakers in her state whom she blamed for her ouster.
She said no clear explanation was given when she was fired as medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health.
She provided a copy of her termination letter to the publication, which stated no reason for the firing.
Fiscus said she believed political controversy around the vaccine whipped up by state Republican lawmakers was the reason for her losing her job.
“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus said in the op-ed. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”
“I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts.
“They believe what they choose to believe rather than what is factual and evidence-based. And it is the people of Tennessee who will suffer the consequences of the actions of the very people they put into power.”
Insider has reached out to the Tennessee Republican Party for comment.
The move comes with the Delta variant spreading rapidly in Tennessee, and the state lagging behind much of the rest of the US in its vaccination rates.
A particular concern of teachers is that the variant could spread in schools, prompting a push by health officials to get teenagers protected against the illness.
Fiscus led the state’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the disease, but in doing so became the target of criticism from state GOP lawmakers.
Teens have been eligible for vaccination since the FDA in May allowed those between 12 and 16 to receive jabs after studies proved it was safe and effective. Older teens had already been eligible.
Fiscus had pushed to expand access to some teens whose parents prefer that they not get the shot.
She said that under Tennessee “mature minor” law, teenagers older then 14 could be vaccinated without requiring the consent of their parents or guardian, reported the Tennessee Star.
Some state Republicans were so enraged by the push to vaccinate teenagers using the rule that in June they called for the entire state health department to be dissolved.