Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who served as the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health, was ousted on Monday after state Republican lawmakers attacked her for a recent memo on giving teens the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fiscus told the Tennessean that her firing was triggered by the lawmakers’ outrage over the agency’s push to get teens vaccinated.
“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” the former official said. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”
The Tennessean reported that Fiscus’s termination letter did not explain why she was being fired.
Bill Christian, the associate director of the health department’s communications office, told TPM in an email that the agency “cannot comment on HR or personnel matters.”
Fiscus became a target for Republicans when she sent a letter to health professionals who provide vaccines laying out Tennessee’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” which gives them the legal authority to administer vaccines to minors over the age of 14 without requiring parental consent.
GOP lawmakers hammered on the letter during a hearing with Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey on June 16, according to the Tennessean.
State Sen. Janice Bowling (R) pushed Piercey to “take action” to “remove the fear, the concerns and the anger that has gone across the state as a result of” the letter, and another GOP senator expressed “extreme disappointment” over the memo.
Shortly after her firing, Fiscus penned a scathing op-ed for the Tennessean that ripped lawmakers who “put their political gains ahead of the public good” in their attacks on public health officials’ COVID-19 vaccination and prevention efforts.
Fiscus also reported that she was told she should’ve been more “politically aware” when she sent out the memo and had “poked the bear” by doing so.
“I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts,” she asserted. “They believe what they choose to believe rather than what is factual and evidence-based.”
“I am ashamed of them,” the former official also wrote. “I am afraid for my state.”