Many thanks @chrislhayes for hosting me @allinwithchris with @RepLamar I explained health consequences of low vaccination in a state like TN where only 20% of adolescents vaccinated and low numbers young adults. In addition to failing to stop the virus…. pic.twitter.com/xSQmifBVGR
With Tennessee's hard turn against all vaccines, this state directive stands out: “no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine." talkingpointsmemo.com/news/state-health-dept-nixes-teen-outreach-for-all-vaccines-amid-gop-attacks via @TPM
In case anyone misread what I said, Tennessee hasn’t stopped all vaccines, although, surely, they would if they could, they have outlawed the encouragement of taking the Covid vaccine, and ALL OTHERS including Polio, Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, etc!
COVID is spiking again in Tennessee, as it is everywhere in the Anti-Vaccination Belt. www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a37015792/tennessee-vaccines-minors-department-of-health/
Updated 10:42 AM ET, Thu July 15, 2021
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15 July, 2021 - 11:18am
The Nashville Tennessean has the scoop:
To reiterate, this would go far beyond merely preventing the government from encouraging minors to get a vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said is worthwhile for teens and young adults. It wouldn’t even allow for reminding minors who have gotten the first shot — for whom this vaccination decision has seemingly been made by them and/or their parents — to get a second shot. It also comes a day after we learned that the state’s top vaccination official was fired amid pressure from Republican lawmakers.
“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Michelle Fiscus said in a statement. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”
The move also notably includes communications about other vaccines — which suggests that the vaccine skepticism that undergirds it appears to be spreading more generally to vaccines as a whole:
The state department of health had previously done outreach on vaccines including HPV, measles and Meningitis.
There are perhaps valid questions about whether such communications should target minors. The lumping in of both second-shot communications and communications about other, more lengthily studied vaccines, though, points to something bigger than just asking questions about and not wanting to push too hard on this particular vaccine.
“No back-to-school messaging to the more than 30,000 parents who did not get their children measles vaccines last year due to the pandemic,” Fiscus said. “No messaging around human papilloma virus vaccine to the residents of the state with one of the highest HPV cancer rates in the country. No observation of National Immunization Awareness Month in August. No reminders to the parents of teens who are late in receiving their second COVID-19 vaccine. THIS is a failure of public health to protect the people of Tennessee and THAT is what is ‘reprehensible.' ”
This has been lurking beneath the surface for a long time. Former president Donald Trump before he became president repeatedly cited debunked links between vaccines and autism. GOP officials like Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) have also cast doubt on vaccines for children, with Stitt saying he didn’t get vaccinations for some of his children.
Until about a year ago, this was a much more bipartisan issue, with reservations about vaccination spanning from well-to-do West Coast liberals to more anti-government conservatives. What has transpired since then has been the anti-vaccine movement blowing up more on the right than the left, despite Trump having claimed credit for the production of the vaccine during his administration.
The news in Tennessee suggests this is indeed seeping well into actual government action. And given the fervor on some portions of the right, you can bet some red states will soon emulate it now that Tennessee has broken the seal.
Shortly before the Tennessean’s report Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), who is a polio survivor who has repeatedly supported the coronavirus vaccine, was asked about Republicans who have cast doubt on the vaccines.
“I can only speak for myself,” he said, “and I just did a few minutes ago.”
The developments in his state’s neighbor to the south would seem to suggest GOP advocates who truly want to get people vaccinated might want to adopt a more forceful posture about the misinformation plaguing significant portions of their party. State GOP officials have repeatedly invited extreme vaccine skeptics to testify to promote claims that include that the coronavirus vaccine magnetizes its recipients, among other wild theories. They’ve turned a blind eye to their colleagues and influential cable news hosts like Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who carelessly promotes skepticism about the vaccines in the name of questioning the federal government.
The point isn’t that vaccines can’t be questioned; it’s that the questioning of them has often devolved into specious claims and very different places than lawmakers like McConnell and most big-name Republicans profess to be. But calling that out apparently doesn’t work in a party so defined by and worried about alienating its extreme wing.
The question from here is how much Tennessee is a precursor to the dam breaking on this kind of thing in other states, and whether the coronavirus vaccine skeptic movement will indeed spread to other vaccines.
15 July, 2021 - 11:18am
According to the report, the state will no longer send notices reminding teenagers to get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine or hold vaccine events on school property.
In a statement, the health department insisted it will continue its vaccine outreach efforts for children, but added: “Being that trustworthy messenger means we are mindful of hesitancy and the intense national conversation that is affecting how many families evaluate vaccinations in general.
“We are simply mindful of how certain tactics could hurt that progress,” the statement read.
The reported changes to Tennessee’s vaccination strategy come after the state’s top immunization leader, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, said she was fired after GOP pushback over her outreach efforts, which included tweets and Facebook posts promoting coronavirus vaccines to young people 12 years and older.
Those posts drew scorn from Republican lawmakers, some of whom proposed dissolving the health department altogether to stop it from "peer pressuring" teenagers to get vaccinated.
“It’s just a huge symptom of just how toxic the whole political landscape has become,” Fiscus told the New York Times. “This virus is apolitical — it doesn’t care who you are or where you live or which president you preferred.”
The changes come amid a spike in coronavirus cases in numerous states, including Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the average number of new cases per day has more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 177 to 418, while the average test positivity rate has jumped from 2.2 percent to 5.4 percent. Confirmed cases of the Delta variant have more than quadrupled in the Volunteer State.
Just 38 percent of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department — 10 points below the national average.
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15 July, 2021 - 04:50am
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee's top vaccine expert, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, said she received a muzzle addressed to her at work anonymously.
Dr. Fiscus was getting back into the office after the July 4th holiday weekend when she spotted an Amazon package on her desk.
"When I opened it, it contained this dog muzzle," Dr. Fiscus said.
She thought it was possibly a joke.
"I like to play pranks and so do my friends, called a couple of friends that I thought might be responsible and they didn't know what I was talking about," Dr. Fiscus said.
She spoke with some coworkers at the Tennessee Department of Health. They told her to get the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security involved.
"What they were told from Amazon was that they would need a subpoena in order to determine who had sent it," Dr. Fiscus said.
She still doesn't know who sent the dog muzzle.
It was delivered before she was fired. It's a story that's gained national attention.
"I don't know why it's caught fire, but I'm going to use this platform to continue to support the work of public health, the people who do that work for all of the right reasons, and to continue to promote the importance of being vaccinated," Dr. Fiscus said.
Dr. Fiscus claims she was fired on Monday after she gave some information that medical providers wanted.
That info was about the state's "mature minor" doctrine, which says kids 14 and older can get medical care without parental consent.
Some state lawmakers weren't too happy to learn about that.
"For sharing that information when it was asked of me by these providers who didn't know what the laws were around vaccinating minors in Tennessee, it was decided that I should be terminated," Dr. Fiscus said.
Since her firing, some have wanted to know if she has received any threats. She said the muzzle sent to her was the only thing that has come up.
"I don't know why else it would be sent to me at work to me specifically except to send some kind of a message about maybe being quiet," Dr. Fiscus said.
While Dr. Fiscus doesn't know what the intended message was, she doesn't believe it was a serious threat.
"I've joked a little bit that I noted that this is a size three muzzle, which is described for beagles and yet I am clearly more of a pit bull and needed a size six," Dr. Fiscus said.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security confirms they are investigating the incident.
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