Tennessee Lawmaker Asks For An Explanation Of Why State’s Top Vaccine Expert Was Fired

Jul 13, 2021

Credit Ryan Van Velzer

After the firing of Tennessee’s top vaccine expert, Nashville Democratic Representative John Ray Clemmons is calling for an explanation from the governor and the health commissioner. He says the firing is a “slap in the face” to government employees, and worries it will make it difficult to hire a qualified replacement.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the now-former medical director at the Tennessee Department of Health, gave the Tennessean a copy of her termination letter, which doesn’t explain why she was fired on Monday. Fiscus says that she was a scapegoat to appease state lawmakers, who threatened to dissolve the state health department for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Her name came up in a June hearing because of a letter sent from her office to doctors around the state.

That text clarified the terms of a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that allows adolescents to opt for vaccinations without parental approval under certain circumstances. Fiscus says the text was provided by legal staff and approved by the governor’s office.

In a statement provided to the newspaper, Fiscus says the state’s health department has responded to the lawmakers’ concerns by halting all vaccine outreach to children, including those centered on the usual back-to-school vaccination efforts that are unrelated to COVID-19 and second-shot reminders that would have been sent to parents who already took their teens for an initial dose of the coronavirus vaccine.