The Tennessee Department of Health suspends all types of vaccinations for children and adolescents, Tennessean reported This week. In addition to ending COVID-19 vaccine incidents, the ward will no longer provide information about the HPV vaccine, plan school flu clinics, and remove the ward logo from school vaccination information forms. . The policy change came after state lawmakers were shocked that the department was promoting COVID-19 shots to teenagers.
It is a strong signal that conservative politicians and right-wing commentators, spreads to other types of vaccinations. This is not the first time that policy has affected unrelated public health work during a pandemic – more than a dozen states have proposed restriction of public health powers as part of the response to pandemic constraints. But that’s the first time the target has had regular vaccines.
“It’s crazy,” says Seth Kalichman, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut who studied anti-vaxxers. “It’s exactly the kind of overgeneration that can happen when the wrong information is used.”
The initial problems in Tennessee began when conservative lawmakers criticized Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey for recommending COVID-19 vaccines for teenagers. Department of Health also separated Michelle Fiscus, the highest vaccine authority in the state, after he distributed to doctors a memorandum explaining a state law that allows minors to receive treatment without parental consent. Fiscus said he was a scapegoat, fired to alleviate angry legislators.
Around the same time Fiscus was separated, the ward also discontinued any vaccine for teens or children. Health Department Spokeswoman Sarah Tanksley said Tennessean that the state has a high vaccination rate for children. “We are simply aware of how certain tactics can hurt progress.” He said the department plans to investigate vaccine hesitation and that the changes are a response to “an intense national debate affecting how many families evaluate vaccinations in general”.
The leap from COVID-19-specific returns to general returns concerns Adriane Casalotti, head of public and government affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Authorities. “This is a very clear case of a COVID-19 vaccination policy that affects other vaccinations,” he says. “We’re really worried about the news coming from Tennessee.”
Concerns about one vaccine have occurred in the past, especially with the HPV vaccine, Kalichman says. There is extensive misinformation around the cancer-preventing shot, and parents discard it to their children at high speed. “The HPV vaccine was politicized, and politicization and misinformation definitely undermined the vaccine’s confidence in a new group of people who may not have been hesitant before the vaccine,” he says.
The situation in Tennessee is not unique. Legislators in at least 15 states are considering or have passed laws to limit public health powers analysis the National Association of County and City Health Authorities. In Kansas, a new law would prevent the governor from closing down companies in a public health emergency. In Ohio, the legislature could override any action by the state health department to combat infectious diseases.
“The fact that traditional day-to-day public health has been so boring, precisely because of politics, is really worrying,” Casalotti says.
At least in Tennessee, the law hasn’t changed: the state still is laws children are required to be vaccinated before school. Instead, policy changes may make it difficult for families to get the information they need to keep track of vaccination schedules and ensure children are ready for school in the fall, says sociologist Jennifer Reich, who studies vaccine hesitation at the university’s university. Colorado. “Right now, I only see a cold climate for public health authorities trying to do everything they can to inform people how to stay safe during a pandemic, and also how to protect their children from life-threatening and disabled diseases,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time that lawmakers have tried to restrict public health authorities or challenge, for example, vaccination missions. These proposals don’t usually go far, Casalotti says. “The real difference we’re seeing recently is this grip that so many of them are getting.”
It shows that messages and false information sent by anti-vaxxers and others in this spectrum have more impact. “The scariest thing for people and public health people like me is when denialists, vaxers, and anti-scientific people get an ear to the highest level of government,” Kalichman says.
Kalichman says he wouldn’t be surprised to see what happened in Tennessee in other states, especially in places where COVID-19 vaccinations are highly resistant. It’s easy to predict what could happen next: if state health departments stop advertising or helping children get childhood vaccinations, vaccination levels could drop.
“You have cases of the disease. It’s inevitable that measles, rubella, or anything else will occur if the vaccines fall,” he says. “It just works.”