NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Two Tennessee Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they received assurances that the state health agency will not vaccinate minors against COVID-19 without parental consent, duplicating a decades-old provision on children’s rights. vaccinating children that was a lightning rod in the firing of the state’s top immunization official.
The announcement came during a meeting of the same legislative panel that last month questioned Health Department officials, including then-vaccine chief Michelle Fiscus. The state has since fired Fiscus in what she claims was a move to appease some Republican lawmakers who were furious at the state’s reach of COVID-19 vaccines for minors. Some even threatened to dissolve the Health Department.
Senator Kerry Roberts and Rep. John Ragan, Republican co-chairs of the Joint Government Operations Committee, said in a statement read at Wednesday’s meeting that they had met with Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and a member of the Republican governor. Bill Lee’s office. A spokesman for the Health Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discussion.
According to lawmakers, both administration officials confirmed during that meeting that it is not the policy of the Department of Health, the Department of Education, or the 89 county health departments under the direct control of the state to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to children without parental consent. Roberts read in the statement. Six larger counties, such as Nashville and Memphis Shelby County, are independently managed.
Lawmakers did not say the change would limit medical providers outside of government.
Roberts also said Piercey detailed steps taken “to stop any marketing directed at minors.”
The Republicans’ statement did not mention Fiscus, who has said the Health Department has halted outreach activities to vaccinate minors against all diseases, not just COVID-19, which it has endorsed through records of departmental email. She has noted that he never said that the vaccination program for children had stopped. The Health Department has recently directed parents to state websites for information on childhood immunizations.
Roberts and Ragan also sought to defend Republicans in the Legislature. They said they have not deterred Tennesseans from getting vaccinated or vaccinated their children by opposing COVID-19 injections for minors without parental consent and criticizing the state’s marketing reach on childhood vaccines. They claim that the outreach was directed at children, not parents.
“Interpreting these two concerns as anti-vaccine is intellectually dishonest, lazy and wrong,” Roberts said in the statement.
What is at stake is a memorandum sent by Fiscus on Tennessee’s mature minor doctrine, which dates back to a 1987 state Supreme Court case and allows providers to vaccinate children 14 and older without the consent of parents.
The recommendation of a Department of Health official to fire Fiscus claims that he sent “his own interpretation” of the doctrine. He also alleged deficiencies in his leadership, citing problems with staff.
Fiscus has said that the letter he sent to the vendors was verbatim from documents provided by the department’s chief legal counsel. She provided email records to back up the claim. You too issued a point-by-point rebuttal to suspected shooting offenses and distributed years of positive performance reviews from his supervisor, including last month when he was praised for his “strong leadership”.
Tennessee is one of five states where providers have the discretion to decide whether a minor is mature enough to consent to vaccination without a parent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which said 41 other states require consent from the parents and five others have a self-consent age. under 18 years
At the June hearing, Piercey said she knew of only eight times this year the Tennessee doctrine was invoked, and three were for her own children, who received vaccinations while she was at work.
Roberts and Ragan also criticized “anyone who is intimidating, bribing, shaming, coercing or cajoling an individual to get vaccinated.”
The two lawmakers listed what they called “unacceptable behavior,” though without providing evidence that something like those scenarios actually happened: soccer players demanding that they wear masks and be tested weekly at their expense until vaccinated; suspend marching band members from halftime show unless vaccinated; segregate vaccinated and unvaccinated children at school; or a county health department that pays or encourages parents to vaccinate their children.
Roberts did not allow discussion on the issue Wednesday, despite having Democrats on the panel who have opposed the state’s direction on vaccines and a handful of Fiscus supporters in the hearing. Piercey was unable to attend the meeting due to a previously planned trip with his family, a spokesperson said.
Speaking to reporters, Rep. Vincent Dixie, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, criticized fellow Republicans for closing the discussion, saying they were using “inventions of the imagination” as examples. He said the methods the Republicans condemned were the ones they used against Fiscus.
“The same tactics Senator Roberts said about intimidating, cajoling and ridiculing people, they used against Dr. Piercey and Dr. Fiscus,” Dixie said.