Tennessee is resuming nearly all of its adolescent vaccine advocacy efforts, a senior health official said on Friday, following negative reactions to reported plans by the state to suspend awareness.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters the state will return to promoting all vaccines for children and holding immunization events on school property, including some next week, after a “break”.
But the agency will definitely stop running 11 children’s social media posts that show them parentless, she added.
“Everything else has been suspended and is now being resumed,” Piercey said.
“I want to assure you that the department’s commitment to immunization is completely unchanged,” she added.
The Tennessean reported earlier this month that the Tennessee Department of Health plans to stop its awareness campaign for vaccines for adolescents against all diseases, including COVID-19, sparking outrage in the nationwide.
The article, which cited an internal report and agency emails, said the halt in vaccine advocacy followed criticism of vaccination efforts directed at minors, including by lawmakers.
Piercey said during the briefing that the pause in awareness “over the past few weeks” has revolved around communication and marketing, noting “we have not slowed down our vaccination efforts.”
The senior health official said the agency had taken the time to review its marketing materials to “make sure they were intended for parents correctly.”
“The reason we took a break is that we wanted to leave no room for interpretation on where we’re shooting, and we’re shooting to get the message across to parents,” she said. “And there was a perception that we were marketing to kids, and that was totally against our take on the importance of parental authority.”
Piercey specifically cited that the decision to review the outreach materials followed comments from lawmakers who “felt we were targeting children in these marketing materials.”
But she said minors in “marginal and nuanced” situations would still be allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine without a parent’s permission.
The Tennessee Department of Health was also criticized this month when the state’s top immunization official told the newspaper she was fired after sending a letter to providers about a doctrine. which allows minors aged 14 and over to be vaccinated without a parent’s permission.
The state has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, with 38.5% of the population fully vaccinated. At the same time, cases have more than tripled in the past 14 weeks, according to data from the New York Times.