News

Actions

In-Depth: Tennessee's top vaccine official fired

Fiscus in dep
Posted at 12:48 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 17:11:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On Monday, July 12th, Tennessee fired the state's top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus. Fiscus had been facing scrutiny from Republican state lawmakers over the Tennessee Department of Health's outreach efforts to vaccinate teenagers against COVID-19.

Here's a summary of what NewsChannel 5 has learned about the firing:

--

DR. FISCUS SAYS THE DECISION WAS MADE TO APPEASE LAWMAKERS

Dr. Fiscus says she sent out information about the Mature Minor Doctrine, which allows kids 14 and older to get vaccinated without permission from their parents.

"What I did was put out a memo with factual information" Fiscus told NewsChannel 5. "Information about where the guidelines are around vaccinating minors, providing medical care to minors without parental consent that has been Tennessee case-law since 1987."

--

TENNESSEE'S CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER CITES 'LACK OF LEADERSHIP' IN RECOMMENDATION TO FIRE FISCUS

Dr. Tim Jones, the state’s chief medical officer, recommended in a memo to TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey that Dr. Fiscus be fired due to her “failure to maintain good working relationships with members of her team, her lack of effective leadership, her lack of appropriate management, and unwillingness to consult with superiors and other internal stakeholders on [Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program] projects.”

--

TN OFFICIALS ORDERED TO IGNORE IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS MONTH

The department's chief medical officer, Dr. Tim Jones, responded to an email from Fiscus about National Immunization Awareness Month. "Per the Commissioner, no outreach at all," Jones said, according to a copy of the email provided to NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Just one year ago, Governor Lee declared August Immunization Awareness Month in Tennessee.

--

TDOH SAYS THERE HAS BEEN NO DISRUPTION IN TENNESSEE'S CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM

Statement from TDOH doesn't address firing of Fiscus, nor does it refute reporting that officials aren't allowed to promote Immunization Awareness Month.

--

FISCUS SAYS SHE WAS SENT MUZZLE WEEK BEFORE FIRING

"They must not know me, this is for a beagle, but I'm a pit bull," Dr. Fiscus said in reaction to the muzzle.

--

PHYSICIANS GROUP CALLS FOR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATION, DEMOCRATS DENOUNCE FIRING

In a letter to the Justice Department, the group Protect My Care accuses Lee of "reckless misconduct and abuse of his office," saying in part that he undermined public health professionals, leading to the "avoidable spread of COVID-19."

Protect My Care has been vocal of the Governor's handling of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic

--

TENNESSEE HAS ONE OF THE WORST VACCINATION RATES IN THE COUNTRY

According to the Mayo Clinic vaccination tracker, it's among the bottom 10 states in the U.S. with the lowest vaccination rate. More than 42% of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.