Tennessee physicians group calling for investigation of Gov. Lee following firing of top vaccine official

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NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Dr. Michelle Fiscus says this week the state fired her after facing scrutiny from republican lawmakers. The former top vaccine official says it all stems from her department’s efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccines among teenagers.

The controversy all supposedly stems from a recent memo that Dr. Fiscus sent to COVID health providers across the state. The note mentioned a 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling, which allows those 14 and older to get vaccinated without parental consent.

Dr. Fiscus alleges that some GOP state legislators and anti-vax groups were unhappy with that guidance, so she was the quote, “scapegoat,” and was let go to appease lawmakers. She also claimed that the Tennessee Department of Health was told to cancel any kind of vaccine outreach for childhood immunizations.

After treating coronavirus patients for the last year and a half, and recently promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, critical care Dr. Jason Martin, says he’s part of the health advocacy group calling on the Justice Department to launch an independent investigation into Governor Lee.

They want answers, like why Dr. Fiscus was fired. And if Governor Lee suppressed any life-saving public health information during the pandemic.

“I think it’s frankly a dereliction of duty that the Governor is doing anything to suppress the Department of Health from doing its job, and that’s to protect the lives of Tennesseans and getting more people vaccinated,” Dr. Martin said. “We want someone to look at the Governor’s Office and see if there’s any culpability for the decisions that are being made. Because guys this is life or death. That’s the only way to put it. This is people’s lives at stake over politics.”

Dr. Martin and the Protect My Care health advocacy group has started a petition for those in support of launching an investigation into Governor Lee.

Governor Lee has been vaccinated against COVID-19. His office did not respond to News 2’s request for comment regarding the calls for an investigation on Wednesday afternoon.

“I have nothing to gain by attacking the governor. What I want to do is really promote a message of positivity and promote a message that’s going to increase the well-being of the people of Tennessee,” Dr. Martin said.

The Tennessee Department of Health says they do not plan on halting any childhood immunization outreach efforts and want to remain a trustworthy source of information. You can read the full TDH statement below.

TDH understands the importance of childhood immunizations, the impacts to overall health for Tennesseans, and we continue to support those outreach efforts.  Providing information and access are routine public health functions, and that has not changed.  Tennessee has a long and proven history of being one of the top programs in the nation when it comes to childhood immunization rates.  Below are some highlights of our success in this area which are due in large part to the outreach efforts from TDH across the state.  

• Tennessee ranked among the top 10 states for MMR vaccination coverage among kindergartners during the 2019-2020 school year

•95.3 percent of 2020-2021 kindergarten students in TN were fully immunized

• For more than a decade Tennessee has above 90 percent coverage of kindergarten students receiving childhood immunizations including DTaP, MMR, Polio, Chicken Pox, Hepatitis B.  

TDH wants to remain a trustworthy source of information to help individuals, including parents, make these decisions.  And being that trustworthy messenger means we are mindful of hesitancy and the intense national conversation that is affecting how many families evaluate vaccinations in general.  We have in no way shuttered the immunizations for children program. We are simply mindful of how certain tactics could hurt that progress.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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