Tennessee Republicans threaten to defund health department unless they stop teen COVID vaccine outreach
Vaccination (Shutterstock)

According to Nashville Public Radio, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are threatening to strip funding from the state health department unless it ends a program of COVID-19 vaccination outreach to teenagers.

"The saber-rattling arises from a state memo explaining how teenagers could legally be vaccinated without parental consent," reported Blake Farmer. "This letter, sent to vaccine providers in May, states that under legal precedent, children 14 and up are usually considered mature enough to make medical decisions for themselves, if necessary. But Republican officials already skeptical of the COVID vaccine saw it as the state trying to go behind the back of parents."

According to the report, Republican lawmakers angrily confronted the state health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, over vaccination ads showing teenagers, with GOP Rep. Iris Rudder telling her, "It's not your business to target children. It's your business to inform the parent that their child is eligible for the vaccination. So I would encourage you before our next meeting to get things like this off your website."

In most states, parental consent is required for vaccinating children, putting some children at odds with anti-vaccine parents. Some teenagers are rebelling against their parents and trying to get vaccinated behind their backs — something that in most states is very difficult.

Currently, the nationwide effort is still mainly focused on getting adults vaccinated, with President Joe Biden shooting for 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4. This goal appears unlikely on a national level, although at least 15 states have achieved the goal so far.