With only about 38 percent of its population fully vaccinated, Tennessee is in desperate need of more people getting the Covid jab. Instead, Republicans in the state are waging war on the inoculations for the most spurious of reasons.

Under pressure from increasingly vaccine-hostile Republicans, the public health department in Tennessee fired its top vaccine official earlier this week, then prohibited state officials from engaging in vaccine outreach of all forms to minors. These developments come as average new daily Covid-19 cases in the state have more than doubled since last month.

The official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, wasn’t told in her termination letter why she was being fired (per a review of that letter by the Tennessean). But she was previously criticized by Republicans over a letter she sent to medical providers about the state’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” a policy that has been in place since 1987 that allows health care providers to vaccinate minors 14 and older without consent from their parents. She alleges she was fired for that advocacy, or, in other words, doing “[her] job.”

While there has been an exodus of public health officials during the pandemic across many states, the developments in Tennessee show how vaccine skepticism is evolving in outright vaccine hostility — and how that hostility is translating into policy in states where vaccination rates are lagging. (Tennessee ranks 44th out of the 50 states in the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated.)

What’s happening in Tennessee

Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the department, became a flashpoint for that ire because of the aforementioned letter informing medical providers about the Mature Minor Doctrine.

During a hearing last month, Republicans called Fiscus’s letter “reprehensible” and accused her of

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