The Delta variant of the Sars-COV-2 virus is causing a surge of cases of Covid-19 cases to increase in the US state of Tennessee like most of the other states of the country. In the midst of an urgent plea by the country as well as state administration to increase the pace of vaccinations, health officials in the state came under fire for allegedly enticing teenagers to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
There was an outrage and later a Medical Director of vaccine-preventable diseases by the name of Dr. Michelle Fiscus was fired after she distributed a memo asking children to get vaccinated even without their parents’ consent. She later explained her memo was based on an old mature minor doctrine from the Supreme court that allowed children to be vaccinated without the consent of their parents.
Tennessee Teen Vaccination
Further Immediate action was taken by putting a stop to all vaccination of teenagers in the state while health officials re-examined all promotional material and marketing advertisements. The outrage calmed off when the Tennessee Health department Commissioner Dr. Lira Piercey addressed a press conference to inform all that marketing for vaccination of teenagers was directed at parents.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee assured the people of his state on 22 July 20201 that future vaccination of teenagers would be undertaken only after the consent of their parents. The GOP (Grand Old Party, referring to senior Republican officials) had also objected to vaccinating children without the consent of their parents
The state of Tennessee is one of few states in the US where the law allows teenagers from the ages of 14 to 17 years of age to get medical care and treatment without parental consent. The origin of this ruling goes back to a Supreme Court ruling of 1984 that health officials can treat minors of age 14 years and above if the officials decide that the minors are mature enough. This ‘mature minor doctrine’ had been the cause
Meanwhile, the state of Tennessee is witnessing a surge of new Delta variant cases to the tune of almost 700 cases every day along with a slow rate of vaccination while politicians in the United States are still divided over the necessity of vaccinating more than just 56.2% of Americans. Dr. Fiscuss, who lost her job, feels that the ongoing politics over Coivd-19 and the vaccination have led to more mistrust of the vaccine among the people of the United States.
Health Department Commissioner Dr. Pearcy admitted that hospitalization for Covid infection had increased in the state from 200 in May to 500 now and even anticipated an increase in deaths. She also admitted that 97% of the hospitalizations and 98% of all the people who had died from the corona virus were all unvaccinated people.
Dr. Percy reiterated that vaccination had resumed in the state of Tennessee and this time teenagers were being vaccinated with the consent of their parents. She explained that vaccination had been temporarily halted as there had been a misconception that the state health department had been targeting and even marketing to the teenagers directly. She assured parents that they were the best decision-makers for their children.
The situation on the ground is such that the National Association of County and City Health (NACCHO) had informed CNN that more than 250 health officials had left their jobs since the start of the pandemic, many of them of their own will and many under pressure from people against public health efforts to control the pandemic.
As of now, only 38% of the people of the state of Tennessee have been vaccinated and cases are continuing to increase while health officials are under pressure to not ask teenagers to vaccinate.