vaccine

Health Department: COVID-19 immunizations up 47% since mid-July

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state Health Department says COVID-19 immunizations are up 47% between July 12 and Aug. 2.

Here’s the full release from Gov. Bill Lee’s administration:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Health is recognizing National Immunization Awareness Month this August. This comes at a time when Tennessee is seeing an increase in the COVID-19 vaccination as more Tennesseans are choosing to become vaccinated against COVID-19. Total vaccinations increased 47 percent from July 12 to August 2. Over the last week, 94 of the 95 counties across the state have experienced an accelerated rate of vaccine administration. TDH also continues to see an increase in vaccines among all demographics.

• 3 percent increase in total population with at least one dose in the last month
• 30.8 percent of the Black population have received at least one does of the vaccine
• 40.2 percent of the Hispanic population have received at least one dose
• 12-15 age group has seen the highest increase in vaccination rate with a 7.1 percent change in the last six weeks

As children across the state begin a new school year, many families are scheduling routine checkups. TDH encourages parents to make sure routine vaccinations are part of that visit.

“Vaccinations prevent the spread of diseases and outbreaks,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Tennessee has always done well at ensuring routine vaccinations for both children and adults are up to date. However, we know many Tennesseans got off-track with routine medical care during the pandemic and could be at risk for infection or disease. That is why it is so important to talk with a medical provider or visit your local health department to see how your family can get back on track with routine vaccinations.”

It is equally important for adults to take the proper steps to ensure they are up to date on recommended vaccines. According to the CDC, some vaccines are recommended for adults based on age, health condition, or other factors.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interactive Vaccine Guide, which provides an Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool. CDC also offers the recommended immunization schedule for infants and children. Parents can find that schedule online at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child-easyread.html.

“While we are focused on routine vaccination, we must also continue to encourage the COVID-19 vaccine,” Piercey said. Tennesseans age 12 and above are eligible to receive the vaccine in the state. Families can make appointments with their local health department or personal medical provider to receive all their necessary vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Across the state, more and more Tennesseans are choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Over the last week, 94 of the 95 counties across the state have experienced an accelerated rate of vaccine administration. TDH also continues to see an increase in vaccines among all demographics.
To find information on services offered by local health departments, visit https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments/lrhd/local-services.html.

During National Immunization Awareness Month, the Tennessee Department of Health will be sharing information and resources on social media to highlight the importance of vaccines.

Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @TNDeptofHealth, and use #ivax2protect to share why you choose to vaccinate.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.

House health chair credits vaccine with preventing worse symptoms when infected by COVID-19

Rep. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), standing right, confers with Reps. John Crawford (R-Kingsport), center, and Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) on the House floor on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Health Chair Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) is crediting his COVID-19 vaccination with potentially preventing him from hospitalization or even death when he came down with the coronavirus.

“I feel fortunate to have not contracted COVID before a vaccine was available,” Terry said in a release. “I have since contracted, and recovered from, COVID through what is called a ‘breakthrough infection’. With my health history, it could have been much worse. I’m convinced the vaccine protected my health and possibly saved me from an extensive hospitalization, or death. All Tennesseans, especially those with risk, need to talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated”.

Terry, who is a physician, said he had muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and other cold-like symptoms, “but I never developed the severe respiratory problems associated with COVID that I’m at risk for. I credit the vaccine for helping prevent major problems. I’m still not 100%, but I’m getting there.”

“I’ve never been under the illusion that I would never get infected even after vaccination. It’s just been my hope that, when I did get infected, I wouldn’t have a major reaction,” Terry said. “I’ve had medical and legislative colleagues that have had severe and deadly reactions. I’ve seen patients on ventilators and have bad outcomes. I don’t wish that on anyone. I know many folks don’t trust government, the media, or politicians, but most trust their doctor. It’s a conversation folks need to have.”

Read Terry’s full account here.

Conservative radio talk show host Valentine hospitalized with COVID-19

Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine has been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to his brother.

“He is in the hospital in the critical care unit breathing with assistance but is NOT on a ventilator,” Mark Valentine said in a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” he wrote.

Here’s the full statement:

Phil contracted the Covid virus a little over a week ago & has since been hospitalized & is in very serious condition, suffering from Covid Pneumonia and the attendant side effects. He is in the hospital in the critical care unit breathing with assistance but is NOT on a ventilator. We’d ask that everyone please refrain from contacting him while he is in the hospital. Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an “anti-vaxer” he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon. Phil & his family would like for all of you to know that he loves ya’ll and appreciates your concern, thoughts & prayers more than you will ever know. Please continue to pray for his recovery and PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!”

Fired chief vaccine officer’s husband ran against erstwhile Lee ally Casada

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone in the House chamber in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state on Monday fired Tennessee’s top vaccination officer, The Tennessean’s Brett Kelman reports. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Health Department, said her termination letter gave no reason for her dismissal.

Fiscus told the paper she had become a scapegoat for conservative lawmakers’ anger over the department’s efforts to vaccinate teeenagers against COVID-19.

“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus told the paper in a statement. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”

There’s a political subcurrent to the firing. Fiscus’ husband, Brad, ran as an independent candidate against state Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in last year’s election, finishing third. Many of the lawmakers most upset about the state’s vaccinate efforts were strong supporters of Casada’s truncated House speakership, which collapsed in 2019 amid a racist and sexist text messaging scandal and complaints about a heavy-handed leadership style.

Casada, who played a key role in pushing through Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher law in 2019, was one of three sitting lawmakers to have their homes and offices searched by federal agents in January. No charges have been filed in the probe.

Michelle Fiscus’ full statement follows:

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Here’s who has been vaccinated among the TN congressional delegation

Bill Hagerty attends the Tennessee Republican Party’s Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on June 15, 2019. At right is U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the state’s nine House members are more divided.

According to reporting by States Newsroom and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, four House members from Tennessee have gotten the shot: Democrats Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, and Republicans Scott DesJarlais of Winchester and David Kustoff of Memphis.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga) is holding off for the moment.

“Because I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January, I am waiting to be vaccinated until those who are at a greater risk for the virus are able to be vaccinated first,” he told the Times Free Press. “I continue to strongly urge all Americans to get vaccinated.”

The four remaining Tennessee members, all Republicans, did not respond to the survey or newspaper: Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Mark Green of Ashland City, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport, and John Rose of Cookeville.

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville) responded they had already been innoculated.