American Medical Women’s Association Health Policy Statement
As of July 13, 2021, Tennessee led all states in rising rates in new COVID-19 cases— with a 400% increase in people testing positive in the last two-week period. More worrisome, deaths have increased by 9% during this time period. These numbers are linked to the spread of the Delta variant. Yet, the vaccination rate in Tennessee is at 38%, barely more than half of the estimated 70% of the population needed to slow, if not halt, the pandemic.
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) believes that every precaution should be taken to support the reopening of fully in-person learning for all students in the fall. For this to happen, children must be protected against COVID for schools so that schools remain safe for students, teachers, and staff. As such, AMWA stands by the CDC recommendation to expand the COVID vaccine to adolescents (ages 12 to 18 years), since the Pfizer vaccine has proven to be safe and effective.
The recent firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, director of adolescent immunizations for the State of Tennessee Department of Health, seems contrary to these goals. In encouraging teens to get vaccinated, Dr. Fiscus was following established public health guidelines and state regulations. Not only was she removed from her post, but public efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations among youth have been halted as well as programs aimed at reminding parents of the importance of keeping up with critical childhood immunizations. Such actions create a dangerous precedent that will minimize access to needed patient care for otherwise preventable diseases in children.
AMWA believes that prohibiting vaccine outreach among adolescents will have widespread, detrimental effects on the population, particularly with the growing threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The actions taken by Dr. Fiscus were based on evidenced-based health norms aimed to achieve lower COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalization rates, and the risk of death for all Tennesseans. As such, we endorse the reinstatement of Dr. Fiscus to her post as medical director for adolescent immunizations at the Tennessee Department of Health so that she may get back to the critical work of getting children vaccinated and ready to return to school in the fall.
Michael Frieden, Law Student IUPUI McKinney School of Law
Katrina Green, MD
Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, AMWA Advocacy Chair
Professor of Clinical Medicine at AU/UGA Medical Partnership
On behalf of the American Medical Women’s Association
- Tennessee Department of Health, data updated 7/22/21(accessed 7/23/21) .https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/covid-19-vaccine-information.html
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 9). Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know. Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/herd-immunity-and-coronavirus/art-20486808.
- State of Tennessee COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs. https://covid19.tn.gov/
- Centers for Disease and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/downloads/tennessee-jurisdiction-executive-summary.pdf
- gov. COVID-19 Vaccine Resources. www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/cedep/novel-coronavirus/COVID-19_Vaccination_Plan.pdf