CDC Director Walensky ‘very disturbed’ by Tennessee decision to cease vaccine outreach to minors

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Fund Subcommittee hearing to consider FY 2022 budget proposal for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Jim Lo Scalzo | AFP | Getty Images

Tennessee’s decision to stop vaccinating teenagers during a pandemic is “incredibly worrying,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

“I find that incredibly worrying, it’s not just worrying for Covid, it’s worrying for all vaccine-preventable diseases,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Thursday in an interview with CBS This Morning.

The state’s Department of Health has reportedly decided to end the diffusion of youth vaccines for all vaccines – not just Covid – effectively ending any government communication or education initiatives for youth in the state about vaccines.

The decision made headlines when the state’s Medical Director for Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Programs for the Tennessee Department of Health, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, was released after sending a memo to doctors outlining government policies that allow minors to seek medical assistance without parents’ approval.

Department spokesman Bill Christian said in a statement to CNBC that the state has not stopped its child immunization program and continues to “support these education efforts. Information provision and access are routine public health functions and that has not changed ”.

He did not specifically say whether the state’s own outreach program has stopped.

Fiscus said she felt the pressure after highlighting a public document from a state Supreme Court ruling that allows residents over the age of 14 to seek medical treatment without a parent’s consent, “unless the doctor believes the minor has not grown up enough to make his or her own health decisions, “the ruling reads.

“I’m not a political agent, I’m a doctor,” Fiscus told MSNBC. She said she was told she was “poking the bear” and that she needed to work on her political awareness after the public document was released. Republican lawmakers compared the vaccine’s reach for teenagers to peer pressure, she said.

Tennessee has one of the worst Covid vaccination rates in the country, fully immunizing only 38% of the total population, according to CDC data.

“We now have our most reluctant population who are rural male conservative whites who really hang their hats on this political ideology that Covid-19 is not real, that it is not a threat, or that getting the vaccine kind of sustains the left. Wings of our political system, “she told MSNBC.

Cases rise in the state and others with low vaccination rates as the delta variant prevails in the United States

“This is what we expected … that we would see low case numbers in areas with high vaccination rates, and now we are seeing high case numbers in areas with low vaccination rates,” Walensky said.

Walensky said we could see infections spike in the coming fall months, but said if more people were vaccinated now the country could “prevent what could happen in the fall”.

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