‘I’ve done my job very well’
Tennessee’s top vaccination expert talks with News4 after being fired
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee’s Medical Director of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunizations is voicing her concerns about state lawmakers after she was fired Monday.
Dr. Michelle Fiscus says it all started two months ago when Tennessee medical providers administering the COVID-19 vaccine reached out to her asking what they should do if a 16-year-old wants to get vaccinated and doesn’t have a parent with them.
Dr. Fiscus says she found the “mature minor doctrine,” which resulted from a 34-year-old Tennessee Supreme Court ruling. That ruling says anyone between the ages of 14 to 18 can get medical care in Tennessee without parental consent.
“I was provided that language, told that language was provided by the governor’s office, sorry, blessed by the governor’s office, and told I could share it however I needed to share it,” Dr. Fiscus explained in an interview with News4.
She says she emailed the providers back with the information and one recipient got upset and took to social media. It also grabbed the attention of lawmakers.
“This became interpreted as my attempt to undermine the authority of the parents of Tennessee, which again, this was a memo sent to physicians that were providing vaccination because they asked what the rules were,” said Dr. Fiscus.
She says legislators responded, saying what Dr. Fiscus sent out is false information and scared people from understanding the truth.
“I was given the opportunity to resign and I elected not to because I’ve done my job, I’ve done my job very well,” Dr. Fiscus comments.
Since Dr. Fiscus left the TDH on Monday, she says all opportunities for adolescents to receive COVID-19 vaccines are now on pause. Any vaccination event outside of the TDH for children are also canceled. That means flu, mumps, and varicella vaccination rates will fall behind. All this as the Delta variant has made its way to Tennessee, a variant that affects children.
At this point, Dr. Fiscus says lawmakers are putting lives at risk for political gain.
“It’s fine that I was fired,” Dr. Fiscus commented. “I am an educated, self-confident woman. I will find employment. I am not concerned about that. What I’m concerned about is that people have the audacity to try and stop people from vaccinating their children.
We asked Dr. Fiscus if she regrets sending the email to medical providers two months ago. She says if she could go back, she would tweak the language of her memo.
Dr. Fiscus also says the TDH was told they cannot recognize August as National Immunization Month. As for her next steps, she says her family may look to move out of state and she hopes to stay in public health.
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