TDH: ‘We have in no way shuttered the immunizations for children program’

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In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company’s facility in Puurs, Belgium. Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying Thursday, July 8, 2021, that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant. (Pfizer via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Department of Health said it has “in no way shuttered the immunizations for children program” and remains a “trustworthy source of information” regarding COVID-19 despite claims by a fired state vaccination official.

In the statement provided to News 2 on Wednesday morning, the department said, “TDH understands the importance of childhood immunizations, the impacts to overall health for Tennesseans, and we continue to support those outreach efforts.”

“Providing information and access are routine public health functions, and that has not changed,” the statement continued. “Tennessee has a long and proven history of being one of the top programs in the nation when it comes to childhood immunization rates.”

The department also listed “some highlights of our success in this area which are due in large part to the outreach efforts from TDH across the state,” including the following:

  • Tennessee ranked among the top 10 states for MMR vaccination coverage among kindergartners during the 2019-2020 school year
  • 95.3 percent of 2020-2021 kindergarten students in TN were fully immunized
  • 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 TDH statement ended with, “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.”

The statement from the state’s health department followed this week’s firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who is now the former Medical Director of the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Immunizations program.

After her job was terminated, Dr. Fiscus told News 2 that she is afraid for the state of Tennessee.

“People are going to die of a vaccine-preventable disease. There is no reason anyone in this state should die from COVID-19,” she explained in an interview Tuesday.

Dr. Fiscus said that all messaging regarding any kind of vaccine has ended in response to blowback from the General Assembly.

“My biggest concern is that Tennessee Department of Health leadership, in response to the blowback from the legislature, has now been to cancel any kind of vaccination outreach for childhood vaccines, infant vaccines, flu vaccines in the fall that were scheduled to be given in schools, HPV vaccine messaging so that we can prevent cancer in young adults. All of this messaging has now been put on hold and the department is not permitted to message any of that proactive messaging that saves lives and prevents disease.”

Dr. Fiscus added, “I’m worried for the next wave of not only COVID-19 but measles because we don’t have our children protected, or chickenpox, or hepatitis or whatever other vaccine-preventable disease that we have coming through, because people will not pay attention to common sense, medical science.”

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