NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After the Tennessee Department of Health released the personnel report of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the former top state vaccine official responded in eight pages.
The TDH memo, sent as a recommendation for termination to Dr. Lisa Piercey, TDH Commissioner, listed poor leadership and inability to work with others as justification for the firing. However, annual evaluations of Dr. Fiscus contradict the memo.
Though NewsChannel5 requested the personnel file formally from TDH, omitted from the documents sent were annual evaluations.
Dr. Fiscus sent three evaluations to NewsChannel5, ranging from 2016 to 2020. All of the evaluations had positive reviews in all areas, including leadership and interactions with coworkers at the department of health.
The new information is contrary to the memo which cited repeated negative interactions with coworkers and Dr. Fiscus and coaching sessions which did not improve the situation.
NewsChannel5 political analyst Pat Nolan said the situation is a black eye for Tennessee.
"The reasons they gave when you look at the other performance reviews, they said exactly the opposite of that until just recently," said Nolan. "So, obviously, something changed that would indicate her dismissal and some change in politics that made it efficient for the state to get rid of her."
Dr. Fiscus first came under fire from Republican state lawmakers in May of this year following a letter she sent out to providers about rules regarding vaccinating minors. She referenced the Mature Minor Doctrine, case law that established how young a child can receive medical care without permission from their parents. In this case, it showed teens as young as 14 could get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the memo.
The letter led to some harsh words for the department of health in the Government Operations Committee on June 16. Dr. Fiscus was specifically mentioned by Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling in her objections to the doctrine.
Tennessee also came under fire for internal memos instructing departments to pull back on vaccine outreach programs for teenagers. An email also instructed the department to not promote August as National Immunization Awareness Month.
TDH sent out a notice on Thursday that said the department never stopped vaccinating children. Instead, they said they wanted to pause marketing to take a look at their message across the state.
"This has been going on a long time and they don't actually say what's wrong with the marketing materials. The stuff I've seen doesn't appear to be any sort of hard sell for teenagers who do it. I get peer pressure but I doubt teenagers look at anything they get from the Tennessee Department of Health as a peer pressure situation," said Nolan.
Tennessee has gained national attention for the controversy, making headlines on most major news sources and into late-night talk shows.