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Tennessee’s Ousted Vaccination Chief Blasts Politics Over Teen Vaccines

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A technician fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year. Jon Cherry/Getty Images hide caption

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Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Tennessee’s top vaccine official says she has been fired as punishment for doing her job in the face of political pushback.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus was caught up in a controversy after she passed along legal guidance to health providers saying teenagers do not need parents’ consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot — a position established by decades of state law.

“Specifically, it was MY job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus said in a scathing statement about her firing. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”

Tennessee’s leaders have betrayed the public trust, Fiscus says, accusing them of putting their own political gains ahead of the people’s well-being. She defended her colleagues in the health sector who have been fighting the pandemic — and she notably took umbrage that a lawmaker had called the state health department’s actions “reprehensible.”

Fiscus said that “the ‘leaders’ of this state who have put their heads in the sand and denied the existence of COVID-19 or who thought they knew better than the scientists who have spent their lives working to prevent disease… they are what is ‘reprehensible.’ I am ashamed of them. I am afraid for my state.”

Because of the pushback from lawmakers, Fiscus says, Tennessee is halting all of its vaccination outreach efforts for teens and children – not only for COVID-19 but also for measles and other illnesses.

The Tennessee Department of Health declined to comment on Fiscus’ employment status, stating, “We cannot comment on HR or personnel matters.” A message to Gov. Bill Lee’s office was not returned before this story published.

The events leading to her being fired “can only be described as bizarre,” Fiscus said.

It all started in the spring, when Fiscus says several health care providers asked her office for clarity about how to handle the then-looming authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for minors as young as 12. As she prepared a memo on the subject, she turned to the Tennessee Department of Health’s general counsel, which replied with a doctrine based on a 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling.

The doctrine, which says teens from ages 14-17 don’t need to get their parents’ or guardians’ consent before getting the vaccine, was posted online “and is blessed by the Governor’s office on the subject,” the legal office said, according to Fiscus. The office reportedly added, “This is forward facing so feel free to distribute to anyone.”

But when Fiscus sent a memo sharing that guidance, critics seized on the message and called it a governmental overreach, threatening to disband the state Department of Health, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. At a hearing in Tennessee’s legislature, a Republican legislator said the health department’s ad campaign encouraging teens to get vaccinated amounted to an attempt “to target children.”

State Rep. Iris Rudder told health officials, “I would encourage you, before our next meeting, to get things like this off your website.” Rudder was referring to a photo of a smiling teen with a bandage on her arm.

In addition to Fiscus, much of the conservatives’ anger was directed at Tennessee’s health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, who insisted her agency’s critics were viewing it through a distorted lens.

“I think there is a sense that we are hiding in dark alleys and whispering to kids, hey, come get vaccinated. We’re not doing that,” Piercey said at the hearing.

The policy was only likely to be invoked for a tiny number of cases, Piercey said, including ones in which parents were unable to care for their children.

In response to Fiscus’ ouster, Democrats in the state Senate issued a statement saying it will “will put more lives at risk,” citing the recent rise in new cases.

“A well-respected member of the public health community was sacrificed in favor of anti-vaccine ideology,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Only 38% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the state health department. That’s a full 10 percentage points lower than the current U.S. total.

Fiscus is a pediatrician who left an established private practice in part because of her fatigue in coping with patients’ families who were skeptical of vaccines.

“I would always ask myself how these parents could think that I would recommend to purposely inject something into their kids that was bad for them,” she said in January of 2020. “Sometimes, we have had this relationship for 11 or even 16 years and they’re actually questioning my intentions now?”

Fiscus was named medical director of Tennessee’s immunization program in early 2019. Later that same year, she was elected to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ board of directors as a district chair, representing five states.

“I was told that I should have been more ‘politically aware’ and that I ‘poked the bear’ when I sent a memo to medical providers clarifying a 34-year-old Tennessee Supreme Court ruling,” Fiscus said in her statement.

“I am not a political operative, I am a physician who was, until today, charged with protecting the people of Tennessee, including its children, against preventable diseases like COVID-19.”

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/13/1015742588/tennessees-ousted-vaccination-chief-blasts-politics-over-teen-vaccines

Covid19

The FDA Extends The Expiration Date On Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccine To 6 Months

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Federal regulators have approved a longer shelf life for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

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Damian Dovarganes/AP

WASHINGTON — Federal health regulators on Wednesday again extended the expiration dates on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, providing health workers with six more weeks to use millions of doses of the shot.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a letter to J&J that the shots remain safe and effective for at least six months when properly stored and refrigerated. It’s the second time the FDA has extended the shelf life on the vaccines since June, when the agency said they could be used for up to 4 1/2 months. When first authorized in February, the FDA said the vaccines could be stored for three months at normal refrigeration levels.

Health authorities in many states had recently warned that they could be forced to throw out thousands of doses of the one-shot vaccine without an extension.

The change gives health providers more time to use remaining shots sitting at pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. After plateauing earlier this summer, vaccination rates have begun climbing again as the contagious delta variant surges across many parts of the country.

Vaccine expiration dates are based on information from drugmakers on how long the shots stay at the right strength. J&J previously stated that it continues to conduct stability testing with the aim of further extending the shelf life of the shots.

The FDA has been reviewing expiration dates on all three U.S.-authorized vaccines as companies have continued to test batches in the months since the shots first rolled out. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, authorized in December, have a six-month shelf life.

J&J’s vaccine was highly anticipated because of its one-and-done formulation and easy-to-ship refrigeration.

But rival drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna, which started shipping shots months earlier, have already supplied more than enough doses to vaccinate all eligible Americans. More than 150 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with the companies’ two-dose shots. By comparison, just 13 million Americans have been vaccinated with the J&J shot.

Use of J&J’s vaccine has been hurt by several rare potential side effects. Earlier this month, U.S. health regulators added a new warning to the vaccine about links to a potentially dangerous neurological reaction called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

That followed a pause in the use of the shot in April after it was linked to a rare blood clot disorder. In both cases, government health advisers said the overall benefits of the shot still greatly outweigh the risks.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/28/1021992894/fda-extends-expiration-date-johnson-johnson-covid-vaccine-6-months

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The Pentagon Will Require Masks To Be Worn Indoors Even By Those Who Are Vaccinated

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The seal of the Department of Defense. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Defense has issued directions that require anyone inside its facilities to wear a mask, even if they’re vaccinated.

The updated requirement applies to all service members, federal employees, onsite contractors, and visitors, and requires masks to be worn in indoor facilities and installations in areas of “substantial or high transmission,” according to a statement from Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Jamal Brown.

The update rescinds a previous mask guidance, which since May had allowed fully vaccinated Department of Defense personnel to not wear a mask indoors or outdoors.

The new requirement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidance. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with higher COVID-19 transmission, which currently includes military bases in several southern states.

Unvaccinated people within the facility, or those not fully vaccinated, are expected to physically distance themselves.

“All defense personnel should continue to comply with CDC guidance regarding areas where masks should be worn. The Department will review and revise all applicable Force Health Protection guidance to address the new CDC guidelines,” Brown wrote in the statement.

As NPR’s Greg Myre reports, “The military has fared relatively well in combating COVID. Fewer than 30 service members have died from the virus out of an active duty and reserve force totaling more than 2 million.”

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/28/1021925844/the-pentagon-masks-indoors-even-vaccinated-cdc-covid

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Covid19

The Pentagon Will Require Masks To Be Worn Indoors Even By Those Who Are Vaccinated

Published

on

The seal of the Department of Defense. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Defense has issued directions that require anyone inside its facilities to wear a mask, even if they’re vaccinated.

The updated requirement applies to all service members, federal employees, onsite contractors, and visitors, and requires masks to be worn in indoor facilities and installations in areas of “substantial or high transmission,” according to a statement from Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Jamal Brown.

The update rescinds a previous mask guidance, which since May had allowed fully vaccinated Department of Defense personnel to not wear a mask indoors or outdoors.

The new requirement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidance. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with higher COVID-19 transmission, which currently includes military bases in several southern states.

Unvaccinated people within the facility, or those not fully vaccinated, are expected to physically distance themselves.

“All defense personnel should continue to comply with CDC guidance regarding areas where masks should be worn. The Department will review and revise all applicable Force Health Protection guidance to address the new CDC guidelines,” Brown wrote in the statement.

As NPR’s Greg Myre reports, “The military has fared relatively well in combating COVID. Fewer than 30 service members have died from the virus out of an active duty and reserve force totaling more than 2 million.”

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/28/1021925844/the-pentagon-masks-indoors-even-vaccinated-cdc-covid

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England And Scotland End Their Coronavirus Quarantine For Vaccinated U.S. Travelers

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People stand in the International Arrivals area at Heathrow Airport in London on Jan. 26. The British government said that starting Monday, fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and much of Europe will be able to enter England without the need for quarantining. Matt Dunham/AP hide caption

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Matt Dunham/AP

LONDON — Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and much of Europe will be able to enter England and Scotland without quarantining starting next week, U.K. officials said Wednesday — a move welcomed by Britain’s ailing travel industry.

The British government said people who have received both doses of a vaccine approved by the FDA in the U.S. or the European Medicines Agency, which regulates drugs for the European Union and several other countries, will be able to take pre- and post-arrival coronavirus tests instead of self-isolating for 10 days after entering England.

The rule change takes effect at 4 a.m. U.K. time (0300 GMT) on Monday.

The Scottish government, which sets its own health policy, made the same decision. Wales and Northern Ireland haven’t announced what they plan to do.

Only people who have been vaccinated in Britain can currently skip 10 days of quarantine when arriving from most of Europe or North America.

There is one exception to the rule change: France, which the U.K. has dubbed a higher risk because of the presence of the beta variant of the coronavirus. Visitors from France will continue to face quarantine.

Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid speaks to reporters during a visit to a pop-up vaccination site in London on Wednesday. Dominic Lipinski/AP hide caption

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Dominic Lipinski/AP

Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the government had made the “right decision.” British Airways also welcomed the moved, but urged the government to go farther and ease restrictions on visitors from more countries.

Claire Walker, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the announcement was “welcome news.”

“The long-term recovery of our entire economy also depends on reopening the U.K. to the two-way flows of people and trade,” she said.

The change hasn’t been universally reciprocated. Some European countries, including Italy, require British visitors to quarantine on arrival. The U.S. this week announced it is keeping a ban on most international visitors, and has advised Americans against travel to the U.K., citing a surge in infections driven by the more contagious delta variant of the virus.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss urged the U.S. to end its travel ban and for the U.K. to go farther in opening up international travel. Weiss said “a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 U.K. jobs that are at stake.”

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he expected the U.S. to ease its travel restrictions.

“We can only set the rules at our end,” he said.

“We can’t change that on the other side, but we do expect that in time they will release that executive order, which was actually signed by the previous president, and bans inward travel.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/28/1021786057/england-scotland-end-coronavirus-quarantine-vaccinated-us

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