State Health Dept Nixes Teen Outreach For … All … Vaccines Amid GOP Attacks

A Premise Health healthcare worker loads a syringe with the COVID-19 Johnson&Johnson Janssen vaccine to vaccinate Toyota employees on March 26, 2021 in Buffalo, West Virginia. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)
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July 14, 2021 11:19 a.m.

The Tennessee Department of Health will end its vaccine outreach efforts to teens for all vaccines, not just for the COVID-19 shots, as state Republicans attack those programs and threaten to shut down the department entirely.

According to an internal report obtained by the Tennessean, Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey ordered her agency to halt the programs on Friday.

The order means the department will no longer hold COVID-19 vaccination sites at schools or send notices to teens reminding them to get their second COVID-19 shot out of concern that the notifications could be, in the report’s words, “potentially interpreted as solicitation to minors.”

But the shutdown goes beyond just the coronavirus vaccine.

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Dr. Tim Jones, the department’s chief medical officer, sent an email to staffers on Monday ordering them to carry out “no proactive outreach regarding routine vaccines” and “no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine,” according to the Tennessean.

Additionally, the email barred staff from “pre-planning” school flu shot events and stated that “any kinds of informational sheets or other materials” on back-to-school vaccines must have the department’s logo removed.

Jones’ email came on the same day of the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the top vaccine official at the department, after Tennessee Republicans tore into her for sending a memo to COVID-19 vaccine administrators laying out the government’s legal authority to vaccinate teens for the virus without parents’ consent.

The GOP lawmakers have been attacking the department’s push to get minors vaccinated recently, with state Rep. Scott Cepicky (R) even suggesting during a hearing last month that the entire agency be dissolved.

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