NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Democrats say they want answers from Gov. Bill Lee after the state’s top vaccination official was fired earlier this week amid scrutiny from Republican state lawmakers over her department’s outreach efforts to vaccinate teenagers against COVID-19.
The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus spoke via Zoom Wednesday, with Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D – Nashville) calling her ouster “dangerous” and “embarrassing.”
“The governor owes the people of Tennessee some explanation of what his policy here is going to be and whether he’s got an actual plan on whether Tennesseans are protected from COVID-19 as the school year approaches [and] as the case counts and hospitalizations are on the rise again,” Yarbro said.
In an interview with Kyle Horan, Dr. Michelle Fiscus said she believes her termination came as a result of her sending out information about the Mature Minor Doctrine, case law governing consent for physician treatment for minors. She believes the termination was political in nature.
Watch the full interview with Dr. Fiscus below:
“It just makes you wonder where the grown-ups are because this is catering to sort of ideological Facebook conspiracy theory stuff and disregarding the actual well-being of communities across the state,” said Yarbro.
Rep. Vincent Dixie (D – Nashville) said the action “sets a dangerous precedent.” “This administration wants to revert to a survival of the fittest model when it comes to Tennessean’s health. This is absolutely ridiculous. We have non-medical people telling experts how to do their jobs,” Dixie said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Lee said Tuesday that they couldn't comment on the firing because it was a personnel issue.
Additionally, an email obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates reveals that Tennessee Health Department officials were ordered last week not to even acknowledge that August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
The Tennessee Department of Health has released the following statement:
As shared previously our vaccination efforts have not been halted or shuttered. We are simply taking this time to focus on our messaging and ensure our outreach is focused on parents who are making these decisions for themselves and their families.
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.
Davidson and Williamson Counties have passed the 50% vaccination rate ahead of the state average, but well short of the 70% herd immunity milestone.
TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told NewsChannel 5 vaccine demand among Tennesseans is low and because of that, the state is not accepting the government's full allotment of vaccine doses.