GOP threatens to shut down Tennessee Department of Health for “pushing vaccines on children”

Trutherism comes in many forms among far-right conspiracy theorists: coronavirus truthers, Jan. 6 truthers, 9/11 truthers, 2020 election truthers, vaccine truthers. And in Tennessee, far-right Republicans in the state legislature, the Tennessee Lookout reports, are threatening to dissolve the state’s health department after accusing it of targeting minors for mass COVID-19 vaccinations without parental consent.

On June 16, according to Lookout reporter Sam Stockard, “The Government Operations Committee ordered Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey to soften the state’s efforts to vaccinate children, mainly by bringing parents into the fold, and report back in July. Republican lawmakers repeatedly pointed toward a picture of a teenager on the state’s website displaying a bandage on her shoulder after having a vaccine. The wording above says Tennesseans 12-16 are eligible to get a shot, evidence the state is pushing vaccines on children, legislators said.”

Piercey, Stockard reports, “repeatedly told members of the panel the state is giving Tennesseans the choice to have vaccinations,” but “to no avail.”

Tennessee State Sen. Kerry Roberts, a Republican, told fellow Republicans, “It looks like there is a mission here, an agenda here to have children vaccinated with or without parental consent.” But Piercey maintained, “Under no circumstance is the (Tennessee Health) Department encouraging children to seek out vaccination without parental consent.”

Piercey went on to say, “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. We’re not encouraging that. It is an allowance, and we do believe that vaccination is the right thing to do for children — and so, we don’t want to prohibit that, if that’s something they want to do.”

However, Tennessee State Sen. Heidi Campbell, a Democrat, defended the Tennessee Health Department during the June 16 hearing, saying there is “no evidence” of the Department targeting minors for COVID-19 vaccinations without the approval of their parents.”

According to the New York Times, about 65% of the United States’ adult population has been vaccinated for COVID-19 — and President Joe Biden is hoping to get that number up to 70% by July 4. Biden is also encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated for COVID-19, although he has never said that children should be vaccinated without their parents’ consent.

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