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Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the top vaccination official in the Tennessee, was fired for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated. She is a public health official who wants to save lives. Those who fired her thought she was alarmist, despite the deaths of 600,000 Americans who were infected with the coronavirus. Tennessee is a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.
The now-former immunization director for the Tennessee Department of Health had been facing scrutiny from Republican state lawmakers over her department’s outreach efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations among teenagers.
“Now there is a fundamental lack of ability to discern credible information in the state of Tennessee amongst our leaders as well,” Fiscus told WKRN. “They don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a Facebook meme and a peer-reviewed scientific journal publication.”
Dr. Fiscus told The Tennessean that she was fired Monday to appease lawmakers. She provided the newspaper with a copy of her termination letter, which does not explain the reasoning for her dismissal.
She also released a blistering statement accusing the “leaders” of the state of ignoring the dead and dying around them while turning their backs on doctors, scientists and other front line workers during the pandemic.
“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. And I am deeply saddened for the people of Tennessee, who will continue to become sick and die from this vaccine-preventable disease because they choose to listen to the nonsense spread by ignorant people.”
Dr. Fiscus told WKRN she was a scapegoat for a legislature bent on vaccine misinformation: “Our elected officials, many of them have really bought into this anti-vaccine propaganda that has been widely distributed, and they are not seeking the opinions of medical experts who understand these vaccines and understand this pandemic.”
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, but public health officials in Tennessee have been ordered not to acknowledge it.