- Tennessee’s Health Department is stopping all vaccine outreach for teens and children.
- The directive applies to vaccines for all diseases, and includes events at schools.
- The suspension comes a day after a top vaccine official was fired due to GOP opposition.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Tennessee Department of Health announced on Tuesday that it will end all vaccine outreach to children and teenagers for all diseases — including COVID-19 — according to an internal memo reviewed by The Tennessean.
The update comes after continued pressure from the state’s Republican Party and state senators to gut the Department of Health, and a day after the state government fired top vaccine official Dr. Michelle Fiscus, after she pushed for a policy to allow teens to be able to get the covid vaccine without parental approval or consent.
The Tennessean reported that the health department will cease all COVID-19 vaccine events at schools, and stop sending reminders for teenagers to get their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Any kinds of informational sheets or other materials that we make available for dissemination should have the TDH logo removed,” agency Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Jones emailed staff on Monday.
According to the report, the decision to discontinue the proactive vaccine communication and events was made by Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.
Teens and children remain at risk for COVID-19 variants, and in some states, immunization is required for attendance at colleges in the fall.
States like Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, and Florida have seen recent COVID-19 outbreaks at summer camps according to the Associated Press, causing fear for the upcoming school year.
And while the disease is less deadly for children, that does not mean that children are not impacted by COVID-19.
“As somebody who takes care of very sick kids, it drives me crazy to hear over and over again that the virus is not serious for children,” Dr. Andrew Pavia said during an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing on Tuesday. “By every measure, the impact is greater than the impact of influenza, and we vaccinate children for influenza to protect them, as well as to have an impact on transmission in the community.”
“So, if the vaccines are proven safe and effective for 6 to 11-year-olds, and for younger children, I think we would be foolish not to vaccinate them,” Pavia continued. “They deserve protection just as much as older people”
A representative for the Tennessee Department of Health told Insider that, “TDH wants to remain a trustworthy source of information to help individuals, including parents, make these decisions. And 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 have in no way shuttered the immunizations for children program. We are simply mindful of how certain tactics could hurt that progress.”
“For more than a decade Tennessee has above 90 percent coverage of kindergarten students receiving childhood immunizations including DTaP, MMR, Polio, Chicken Pox, Hepatitis B,” the representative told Insider in an emailed statement.
Tennessee’s number of new cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks, and over that course of time, the average test positivity rate has gone from 2.2% to 5.4%, the Tennessean report added.
According to state data, only 38% of the eligible population in the state is fully vaccinated.