Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee backed the decision to fire the Tennessee Department of Health’s top vaccine expert, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, during a Thursday news conference.
Lee said the decision was made by Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and department leadership.
“I trust that decision,” Lee said. “I trust their evaluation of the reasons for that decision. I think they made them for what they felt were the right reasons.”
Lee began his news conference speaking on COVID-19 and the increased danger of the delta variant. He encouraged Tennesseans to get vaccinated and said he was pleased that 62,000 people chose to get the vaccine this week.
“I want to be sure and communicate this to Tennesseans,” Lee said. “The most effective tool that we have to manage COVID is the vaccine. Tennesseans need to be reminded on a regular basis that vaccines are available to Tennesseans in every town, in every health department that we have.”
Lee made it clear he believed the state made the right decision to stop marketing vaccines to children, saying that it should be a parental decision whether a child should get the vaccine.
“Parents are the only appropriate decider of the health decisions for children,” he said. “We need to do nothing in government to go around that parental decision.”
Lee said the state had a robust record of vaccinating children and he believes it is the government’s job to educate and provide access to the vaccine but not to require it. He would rather have residents consult their doctors, clergy and loved ones about the decision to get a vaccination.
Lee said he waited until consulting his physician to decide to get vaccinated.
“I am very much committed to the will of the people,” Lee said.
Fiscus said she was fired as the result of sending a memo to vaccine providers about the Mature Minor Doctrine, which related case law from 1987 interpreted to say minors could choose to get health care, including a vaccine, without parental consent.
A letter released last week by the health department said Fiscus was fired over a lack of leadership, poor working relationships with the members of her team and an unwillingness to consult with superiors.
Lee also was asked whether he believed schools should require masks with so many children not eligible to get a vaccine because they are younger than age 12.
“I don’t think they should,” he said, noting it was a school district decision and not a state decision. “I hope they don’t. Children statistically, and according to the science, have an incredibly low rate of severe illness.”
This article was originally posted on Lee supports decision to fire Tennessee’s top vaccine official