Republicans’ war on medicine, science and common sense has reached a new, disturbing low. Bowing to pressure from the state’s GOP lawmakers, the Tennessee Department of Health is ending all of its outreach efforts to encourage adolescents go get vaccinated against all diseases.
The Tennessean is reporting that the Volunteer State’s health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, has ordered her department to immediately stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property and no longer will send postcards to teenagers reminding them to get their second coronavirus vaccine shot. Even more disturbing, the edict also declares that the state no longer will reach out to teens to remind them to get vaccinated against other deadly and debilitating infectious diseases such as the flu, measles, mumps, rubella and human papillomavirus, or HPV.
The decision to curtail outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, according to Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official. Fiscus was fired without explanation on Monday. Fiscus said she was scapegoated to appease lawmakers, who had described routine vaccine outreach as “reprehensible.”
“This is a failure of public health to protect the people of Tennessee and that is what is ‘reprehensible,’ Fiscus said Monday. “When the people elected and appointed to lead this state put their political gains ahead of the public good, they have betrayed the people who have trusted them with their lives.”
The changes take effect just as the coronavirus pandemic shows new signs of spread in Tennessee. After months of declining infections, the average number of new cases per day has more than doubled in the past two weeks. Only 38 percent of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.
Normally, the state’s health department regularly advocates for vaccinating kids against many diseases without controversy.
For example, in 2019 it published at least 15 tweets that either explicitly recommended minors be vaccinated or featured a child in a pro-vaccine image or video.