Tennessee physicians call for legal action against Gov. Lee following firing of top vaccination official

Dr. Michelle Fiscus
Dr. Michelle Fiscus(WSMV)
Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 6:23 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Firing the top vaccine official in Tennessee is disturbing news for some physicians across the state.

Now, doctors are speaking out about it and the Tennessee Department of Health’s decisions when it comes to vaccination awareness.

Doctors are calling on the Justice Department to do an independent investigation of Governor Bill Lee’s actions; what they describe as reckless misconduct in suppression of public health and firing top vaccination official Dr. Michelle Fiscus.

“I think what’s happening right now is pure politics and the unfortunate thing is someone is going to die from it,” said Dr. Jason Martin, a pulmonary critical care physician in Sumner County.

Avoiding more loss of life is what doctors in Tennessee say they want to see after witnessing so many lives lost to the coronavirus.

“I’ve personally seen over 100 patients pass away from COVID. I’ve held up a lot of iPad’s where moms and dads, brothers and sisters wailed at the loss of their loved ones remotely and you only have to experience that once to be a changed person,” Dr. Martin said. “Anytime the department of health has to step away from their mission, patients are going to suffer, doctors are going to find it hard to do their job.”

Physicians told News4 the firing of Dr. Fiscus and the Department of Health’s decision to not hold any immunization events in or at schools will cost the state.

“The Tennessee Department Of Health has always been a great partner as far as advocating for child health, working with us on immunization programs and it’s really disappointing that their ability to do that has been taken away,” said Dr. Hunter Butler with Springfield Children’s Clinic.

Butler also represents the Tennessee Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Having the Tennessee Department of Health not be able to work with us and really help us advocate and talk about the importance of vaccines to their children’s health is really a big blow,” he added.

“Firing Dr. fiscus for just doing her job — just out there trying to promote scientifically proven vaccines adoption in kids to protect the public health — I think firing her is unconscionable,” said Dr. Martin.

News4 also found documents showing that Tennessee’s Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy said there will be no outreach for National Immunization Awareness Month in August.

This news also drew reaction from medical professionals outside the state of Tennessee.

Grace Rossow, a phlebotomist in Illinois, survived Polio and said Tennessee’s health department not planning to hold vaccine awareness for diseases like polio is disturbing.

Rossow reached out to News4 and said she has friends who are physicians in Tennessee.

“I’m very upset about it. As someone who survived Polio and with Polio for 29 years, this is not a disease that should be coming back by any means. This is not a disease we should stop advocating for the vaccines of,” Rossow said. “Polio’s nickname is infantile paralysis. I take this so personally because I have been so affected by it that I cannot imagine any child getting a polio diagnosis in the states. It’s absurd. It’s appalling to me that a department of public would consider saying we’re not going to advocate for these vaccines anymore when they’ve knowingly saved thousands of lives.”

Pediatric physician Dr. Butler says kids not getting vaccinated is not necessarily an effect we will see right now.

“For every year our HPV vaccine rates are where they’re at you’re looking at a good 12 to 1,400 future deaths. It’s important to remember just because we don’t see those impacts right now today, they’re absolutely going to affect us in the future,” Dr. Butler said.

Dr. Butler also said vaccine rates in children is slightly improving.

“For the most part in babies and young children the vaccination rates are going back up, they’re still not where they were pre-pandemic,” Dr. Butler said. “But there’s a really large gap in the older kids and teenagers and adolescents. What that means is they’re missing out on an important opportunity for vaccinations on things like HPV related cancers, meningitis and it’s just dangerous.”

Doctors call what’s happening political and they say the cost will be people’s lives.

“Most political games are arguments between people down at the capitol building. But this has real life implications. Lives are going to be affected. People are going to die. The economy is going to be at risk,” said Dr. Martin. “If there’s a life that needs saving intervention in my practice and I withhold it, I get held accountable and I think the same standard should apply to the governor.”

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