Shelby County to Continue Childhood Vaccination Despite Tennessee Shutdown

County health officials will continue efforts to immunize children in Memphis and Shelby counties, despite a directive from the Tennessee State Department of Health to end these efforts for all vaccines under pressure from republican state legislators.

The Shelby County Health Department is one of the few autonomous metropolitan health departments in Tennessee.

The Shelby County Department shared information on back-to-school vaccination events as late as Tuesday afternoon, less than an hour after USA TODAY – Tennessee reported that the Department of Health of the The state has halted these efforts, as reported by state health commissioner Lisa Piercey.

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“Public health and safety is the number one priority for the Shelby County Health Department,” Acting Department of Health Director La Sonya Hall said on Wednesday. “Our mission is to promote, protect and improve the health of ALL in Shelby County. In keeping with our mission, we will continue to provide a comprehensive immunization program to Shelby County residents of all ages.”

On Saturdays, children can receive the vaccines required for the start of the school year at a special event at the vaccine offices of the health department. For children 12 and older, COVID-19 vaccines are available and “recommended” by the health department but are not required to return to school, the department said.

The event, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 814 Jefferson Ave., is the second in a series of such efforts. The department was also open to families last Saturday.

COVID-19 vaccines are also available for adults. The ministry also issues copies of birth certificates for a fee of $ 15, payable by cash, money order or credit card, provided a parent or guardian is present with proof of identity.

Students cannot attend public school without mandatory vaccinations, unless they receive a medical or religious exemption. A list of vaccines required by the state is online at

The state follows the immunization schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which it says is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Shelby County Schools list other vaccination opportunities on its website,

How we got here

In June, several Republican lawmakers interviewed Piercey, the health commissioner, and accused the health ministry of “peer pressure” on adolescents get vaccinated against COVID-19 without parental permission.

Like many other states, the department had created and released documents advising Tennesseans that children 12 and older were eligible for vaccines protecting against the virus, a major step towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Health then urged its county-level employees to stop adolescent-focused immunization events and stop online adolescent awareness, according to department emails obtained by The Tennessean and reported in July.

Then the ministry said it stop awareness for all adolescent vaccines, not just COVID-19, in an internal report released last week and reiterated on Monday.

If the health department needs to publish information about vaccines, staff are encouraged to remove the agency’s logo from the documents.

Also on Monday, Michelle Fiscus, former senior vaccine official for Tennessee, was fired without explanation.

Fiscus said she was the scapegoat to appease lawmakers, who had described routine vaccination as “wrong.”

“It is a public health failure to protect the people of Tennessee and that is what is ‘wrong’,” Fiscus said said monday. “When those elected and appointed to the helm of this state put their political gains above the public good, they betrayed the people who entrusted their lives to them. ”

The changes come as COVID-19 cases start to rise again in Tennessee, with an immunization rate below the national average and one of the lowest in the country.

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Experts in Memphis have asked school officials to create two plans for the start of the school year in August, as the delta variant, the most transmissible variant of the virus to date, is expected to be dominant in Memphis as a majority population school-aged unvaccinated returns to class.

Tennessee reporter Brett Kelman contributed to this story.

Laura Testino covers education and children’s issues for the business call. Contact her at [email protected] or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino

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