Senators condemn firing of Tennessee’s top vaccine official

‘Insane,’ ‘disappointing,’ Democratic leaders say

NASHVILLE — The ouster of Tennessee’s top vaccination official will put more lives at risk, Democratic senators say, as new cases of Covid-19 are ticking up in the state.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee’s administration fired Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health. The administration’s termination letter provides no explanation or cause for firing her.

But in recent weeks, anti-vaccine lawmakers from the controlling party targeted Fiscus for sending a letter to healthcare providers outlining the circumstances in which they could provide a Covid-19 vaccine to teenagers.

Dr. Fiscus was fired for doing her job and carrying out the public health mission of the state health department, says Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“A well respected member of the public health community was sacrificed in favor of anti-vaccine ideology,” Sen. Akbari said. “This disgraceful hatchet job is going to endanger the lives of unvaccinated Tennesseans at a time when we have a safe and reliable way to protect our families from this virus. A disappointing and poor decision.”

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) summed up the situation on Twitter: “Well folks, this is just insane.”

“The political firing of Dr. Fiscus isn’t just an embarrassment. It’s reckless when cases and hospitalizations are rising and 62 percent (of Tennesseans) remain unvaccinated,” Yarbro continued.

Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) says the firing of Dr. Fiscus will lead to more public health failures in Tennessee as state health experts temper their recommendations to appease anti-vaccine politicians.

“We cannot afford to ignore the chilling effect that this is having,” Sen. Campbell said. “It will make this public health emergency worse by order of magnitudes.”

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly