In a regressive and ill-advised move, Tennessee has halted all vaccine outreach to minors. The state’s health department has ceased all such outreach due to “pressure from Republican state lawmakers,” per The Tennessean newspaper. Not only is outreach for the COVID vaccine now disallowed, proactive education on all vaccines – for any disease – has been halted. This a dangerous move, as we’re still in a pandemic and there are many other diseases that can only be combatted with the use of vaccines.
This move to cease vaccine outreach comes directly from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy after pressure from right-wing legislators. Dr. Piercy has been chastised by GOP lawmakers in the state for her efforts to vaccinate teenagers. The state will also cease reminding adolescents of their follow-up appointments for the second dose of their vaccine after they receive the first dose, potentially leaving many young people only partially vaccinated and therefore inadequately protected. It’s notable that the state’s top vaccine official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, was fired earlier this week with no explanation given.
Tennessee’s COVID positive rates have increased in recent days, with new cases more than doubling in the past two weeks alone. This decision to end vaccination outreach for minors will also have a negative effect on adults, as available information to the general population on vaccines is being sharply curtailed by extension. The timing is poor, as Tennessee is already an under-vaccinated state, has a deleterious and rowdy anti-vaccine lobby, and is a state that is seeing a surge in the number of the highly contagious delta variant. If Tennessee continues on its current trajectory, only 50% of its population will be vaccinated against COVID by March of next year.