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Top vaccine official fired from Tennessee Department of Health

"I am angry for the amazing people of the TDOH who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Health on Monday fired a top vaccination official following a memo sent out to the department that "poked the bear," according to a statement.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Medical Director of the Tennessee Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program at the Tennessee Department of Health, said she was fired in retaliation for her trying to let Tennessee teenagers choose whether they wanted to be vaccinated. 

Dr. Fiscus says she is among roughly 40 percent of the directors to leave their positions since the start of the pandemic.

"We are a group of dedicated public health professionals who have worked endless hours to make COVID-19 vaccines," Fiscus wrote in a statement. "Along the way we have been disparaged, demeaned, accused, and sometimes vilified by a public who chooses not to believe in science, and elected and appointed officials who have put their own self-interest above the people they were chosen to represent and protect."

Fiscus says this all began in May, after the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12 to 15-year-olds, and she sent a memo to vaccine providers. 

Fiscus said the memo sought clarification on the legality of vaccinating minors, since according to Tennessee Supreme Court case law, minors 14 to 17 were able to receive medical care without parental consent. 

Fiscus says a recipient of the memo got upset, and that later in May she was asked to appear before a committee due to concerns that her memo was "a bit of prodding or encouraging to vaccinate children without parental consent."

In a statement sent to the WSMV newsroom, Dr. Fiscus criticizes state leaders, who she says put their heads in the sand and denied the existence of COVID-19. 

"I am ashamed of them," she wrote. "I am afraid for my state. I am angry for the amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind."