Democrats call for TN leaders to avoid politicizing state health after firing of top vaccine official


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s more fallout coming after Tennessee fired its leading vaccination expert just as the ‘more contagious’ Delta COVID variant cases and hospitalizations are rising.

Top legislative Democrats are calling on the Department of Health to not abandon its job to keep Tennesseans safe.

The backlash is coming in strong from Tennessee legislative Democrats.

“Fortunately [Dr. Michelle Fiscus] did not go out quietly and she has made us all very well aware of the truly dangerous and terrifying things that the state health department is doing right now,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis).

Up until Monday, Dr. Michelle Fiscus was the Medical Director of the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Immunizations Program at the Tennessee Department of Health.

“We have got to listen to the health experts who have spent our lives learning how to take care of people,” Fiscus said in an interview with News 2 on Tuesday.

The firing of Dr. Fiscus by Governor Bill Lee comes while just 38% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.

“It is the responsibility of the government to provide accurately for complete information and not to elevate folks who are pushing misinformation,” Akbari said.

Dr. Fiscus said she was a scapegoat for misinformed Republican legislators.

“To make matters worse the damage here isn’t just limited to COVID and the current vaccine drive — the Department of Health has been muzzled from doing proactive communications against any vaccines which is just unbelievable,” Nashville Democrat, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, said.

However, TDH said that is not the case, releasing a statement to News 2.

“TDH understands the importance of childhood immunizations, the impacts to overall health for Tennesseans, and we continue to support those outreach efforts. “

“State workers are not paid well, they do this because they are dedicated to a cause and right now they are so demoralized,” Sen. Akbari said. “So I want him to step up, I want him to be the leader he says he is and do the right thing and to protect our people.”

The office of Governor Bill Lee, who has been vaccinated, did not respond to questions Wednesday afternoon.

Since Tuesday, Tennessee added 575 new COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 100 confirmed Delta variant cases in Tennessee.

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