Fired Tennessee vaccine official received dog muzzle in mail

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s former top vaccination official received a dog muzzle in the mail a few days before she was fired this week in what she has said was an attempt to use her as a scapegoat to appease lawmakers, a newspaper reported.

“Someone wanted to send a message to tell her to stop talking,” said Brad Fiscus, the husband of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, told The Tennessean. “They thought it would be a threat to her.”

Michelle Fiscus had been facing harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers over the Tennessee Health Department’s outreach efforts to vaccinate teenagers against COVID-19. At a June legislative session, in which some lawmakers threatened to defund the Health Department, they specifically referenced a letter Fiscus sent to medical providers explaining the legality of allowing them to vaccinate children 14 and up without parental consent.

Fiscus was fired on Monday. Her termination letter does not explain the reasoning for her dismissal, and a Health Department spokesperson has declined to comment on it.

Brad Fiscus told The Tennessean his wife received a box in Amazon packaging containing a black dog muzzle at her office about a week before she was fired. But he said Michelle Fiscus was “taking it in stride” and continuing to “speak truth.”

“She said, ‘Whoever sent that must not know me very well. That’s for a beagle, but I’m a pit bull,’” Brad Fiscus recalled.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said it is investigating the incident.

Upon her firing, Michelle Fiscus wrote that she is ashamed of Tennessee’s leaders, afraid for her state, and “angry for the amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind.”

Since then, the health department has acknowledged it has halted all outreach efforts around any kind of vaccines for children, not just COVID-19 ones. The Tennessean first confirmed the policy change.