Tenn. lawmakers address COVID vaccine outreach; oppose Mature Minor Doctrine

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 22:14:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Joint Government Operations Committee Chairmen Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) and John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) discussed vaccination efforts Wednesday in the Rule Review Committee concerning the Department of Health.

Chairman Kerry Roberts read the statement saying, the two main concerns for some committee members were that the COVID-19 vaccine, was being marketed to minors and administered without parental consent.

“We have not discouraged Tennesseans from being vaccinated nor have we discouraged Tennesseans from having their children vaccinated,” Roberts said. “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.”

Sen. Roberts continued saying, "It's been widely misrepresented that all children's vaccines have been brought 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."

Read Sen. Roberts' full statement here.

Joint Government Operations Committee statement by Sen. Kerry Roberts

Our NewsChannel 5 reports stated that vaccine outreach for National Immunization Awareness Month was stopped.

During the month, Fiscus says TDH typically sends out a news release, a Governor's proclamation and communicates with local health departments and partners. But this year, TDH officials were told there will be no outreach at all. TDH released a statement denying that the department plans to pause vaccination efforts.

After the committee meeting on June 16, 2021, Chairman Roberts and Chairman Ragan met with Commissioner Piercey and a member of the Governor’s staff.

“During that meeting, Dr. Piercey and the governor’s office confirmed that it is not the policy of Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Education, or our 89 county health departments to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to children without parental consent,” said Roberts. “She further detailed the steps taken to stop any marketing directed at minors.”


The discussion came after the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the state's top vaccination official, and internal memos showed a pause in the vaccine outreach program to teens. Dr. Fiscus said the decision was made to appease lawmakers.

Back in June the Government Ops. Committee had some harsh words for the Department of Health in regards to a memo from Dr. Fiscus about the Mature Minor Doctrine, which allows kids 14 and older to get vaccinated without permission from their parents.

Republican lawmakers on the committee took issue with it and even suggested they could dissolve the department of health.

After Dr. Fiscus was fired and the internal memo about vaccine outreach came out, the state responded saying it was taking time to focus on their messaging.