Top Tennessee vaccine official says she was 'terminated for doing my job'

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
(Image credit: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The Tennessee state government's former top vaccine official is speaking out after her firing, saying she's "afraid for my state."

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who served as the Tennessee Department of Health's medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs, said she was fired Monday and given no explanation in her termination letter, the Nashville Tennessean reports.

In a statement, though, Fiscus wrote that she had been facing accusations of trying to "undermine parental authority" when, in a memo, she pointed to Tennessee Supreme Court case law stating that "minors ages 14-17 years are able to receive medical care in Tennessee without parental consent." She explains that this was only an "informational memo" that she sent after she had been receiving questions about the existing rules about vaccinating minors, but it still sparked backlash and prompted claims that she was "encouraging to vaccinate children without parental consent."

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"It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19," she writes. "...I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts."

Fiscus, while noting that the Tennessee Department of Health is "halting all vaccination outreach for children," went on to blast state leaders who "thought they knew better than the scientists," writing, "I am ashamed of them. 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."

She also told CNN that she's "angry that public health is political in this state" and that it's "astounding to me how absolutely political and self-centered our elected people are here," adding, "The people of Tennessee are going to pay a price."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.