NASHVILLE – Faced with threats from certain Republican colleagues in the legislature to abolish or “reconstitute” the Tennessee Department of Health after carrying out awareness-raising actions with minors encouraging them to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that his administration would work with parents before.
“The state will continue to encourage people to seek access, adults for their children and adults for themselves to make the choice, the personal choice of a vaccine,” Lee told reporters afterwards. a signing ceremony for legislation revising the state temporary assistance program for work. – poor and unemployed families.
Lee added, “It’s the responsibility of the state, the responsibility of the Department of Health, that’s what I encourage them to stay focused on.”
His comments came following a difficult June 16 hearing by the House and Senate Government Operations Committee in which a number of Republican lawmakers criticized State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey , about flyers, posters and other advertisements aimed at school-aged adolescents.
During the hearing, Representative Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, accused health officials of “peer pressure” on adolescents and young adults to get vaccinated with or without the opinion of their parents. “Personally, I think it’s wrong that you are doing this, that you are doing this to our youth.”
Even after that hearing, on June 21, the Department of Health posted on Twitter an image of a boy with a bandage on his shoulder and the message “Tennessain 12+ eligible for vaccines.” Try the COVID-19 vaccines. “
The image was promoted with a text from the department saying, “Vaccines: Safe, Proven, Effective and Eligible for All Tennessians Ages 12 and Over! Make an Appointment Today.”
While Cepicky initially called for a vote to bring Piercey back in July for more discussions and a possible vote on disbanding the department and sharing its responsibilities, he and others then began to tone down the threats – although he there will always be a follow-up meeting.
During the same hearing, Senator Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, accused state health officials of promoting the âmature minors doctrineâ, which emerged from a 1987 court ruling. , he says adolescents between 14 and 18 have the ability to decide on health treatments, allowing a doctor to treat them without parental consent unless it becomes clear that the child is not capable to make a medical decision.
Republican lawmakers were furious that the Health Department reminded doctors of the “mature minor” problem.
In response to questions from reporters on Wednesday about whether he thought the department’s outreach to medical providers on the issue of “mature minors” was appropriate, Lee said “from my perspective, which is appropriate on the part of the Ministry of Health is to provide information on access to vaccines, for adults, for their personal choice and for decisions concerning their children. This is what is appropriate, and this is what that we will continue to do.
The Tennessean reported that state health department officials will review the contents of the agency’s COVID-19 vaccine promotion campaign, citing Piercey as saying she doesn’t think the department has pressured teens to get vaccinated, but will review ads and social media posts.
“We review all of our posts that deal with children and make sure that whatever we do is not targeting or soliciting them because that is not the department’s position,” Piercey told the newspaper.
Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @ AndySher1.