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Ignorance is Death

Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

We live in ignorant times.

By now, surely this is obvious beyond argument to anyone who’s been paying attention. From the Capitol insurrectionist who thought he was storming the White House to Sen. Tim Scott’s claim that “woke supremacy is as bad as white supremacy” to whatever thing Tucker Carlson last said, ignorance is ascendant.

Yet, even by that dubious standard, what happened recently in Tennessee bears note. According to a story by Brett Kelman of the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, the state, under pressure from Republican lawmakers, fired its top immunization official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, and shut down all vaccine outreach to young people. Fiscus’ sin? Doing her job, working to increase access to the COVID-19 shot among kids.

Specifically, she sent a letter to healthcare providers reminding them that under the state’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” they are legally allowed to vaccinate children 14 years or older without parental consent. According to Fiscus, the letter, written in response to requests for guidance made by those administering the shots, utilized language drafted by an attorney for the department of health and was vetted by the governor’s office.

All that notwithstanding, it infuriated some state lawmakers. They used words like “extreme disappointment” and “reprehensible” and talked of closing the health department. Some anonymous person even sent Fiscus a dog muzzle. Then she was fired, and the state shut down all vaccine publicity efforts targeting young people.

This means no postcards sent out to remind kids to get their shots, no nudges on social media, no flyers or advertisements, no events at schools, no outreach whatsoever. And not just for COVID, mind you, but for everything — measles, mumps, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, polio.

 

In a pandemic.

In a state with a less-than-stellar COVID vaccination rate.

At a time when experts are tracking the rise of a deadlier new COVID variant.

It is hard to imagine behavior dumber, more dangerous, more short-sighted and more downright bass-ackward than that exhibited by Tennessee and its lawmakers.

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