NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Pediatricians in Tennessee are pushing back after state Republican leaders asked Governor Bill Lee to delay rolling out recently approved vaccines for young children. This comes less than a week after the FDA and CDC gave the green light for children as young as six months old to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Metro Nashville Health Department had already said they wouldn’t administer the vaccine for the age group at their drive-thru or pop-up clinics.
“We ask that you direct the Tennessee Department of Health to halt distribution, promotion, or recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest Tennesseans,” Republican leaders stated in a letter signed by State Representative Jason Zachary and House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “We simply cannot recommend injecting an mRNA vaccine into children who have never been at serious risk from death or hospitalization from COVID-19.”
Republican leaders said they want to see more clinical evidence about the vaccines being offered to the country’s youngest children.
“Young children have never been at serious risk of death or hospitalization from COVID-19,” Zachary said. “That’s why it’s important that we know more about any potential short-term and long-term impacts these vaccinations could have before our health departments start administering them. Parents who want to have their child vaccinated can still do so by going to a private medical provider.”
The Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in response that they support vaccinating all eligible children with the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think it’s a common misconception that children don’t get COVID, we know that they do get COVID. In fact, they make up about 23% of cases in our state right now. And unfortunately, we’ve seen over 30,000 children be hospitalized nationwide with COVID under five years of age, we’ve seen about 500 children in that age group die of COVID,” said TNAAP President Dr. Jason Yaun. “And children don’t typically die, fortunately. And so any chance we have to prevent disease and death in children is something that we want to do.”
News 2 reached out to the governor’s office for comment. His press secretary shared a brief statement that Governor Lee has received the letter and is reviewing it.
“I think if we stopped the rollout, it would have really severe consequences in Tennessee, the nature of the vaccine distribution is set up so that it really is mainly distributed through the states. And so private practices, hospitals, they have to order through the state,” Dr. Yaun explained. “So, removing that option really limits the availability of the vaccine throughout the state and really prevents parents from having that choice of whether or not they want to get their child vaccinated. And it really could be a significant piece to our fight against the vaccine.”
He encouraged parents and guardians to bring questions about the vaccines to their child’s pediatricians.
Vaccine appointments for those six months to five years old can be found at vaccines.gov. Once the Metro Public Health Department’s supply has arrived, they will offer COVID-19 vaccines to those six months to five years old at the Lentz, Woodbine, and East Clinics by appointment only.