KNOXVILLE, (WATE) — House Republican leaders are asking Gov. Bill Lee to block plans for COVID-19 vaccinations in children under 5 until more clinical evidence is available.
State Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville); House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville); Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland); and Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) have all signed the request seeking to prevent the Tennessee Department of Health from distributing, promoting or recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for young children.
On June 17, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the vaccines for children 6 months and older.
In a press release, the group noted data that shows 202 children in the U.S. between the ages of 6 months old and 4 years old have died in connection with the virus in the U.S. That number includes 14 children in Tennessee who are under 10 years old.
Zachary says that number isn’t high enough to warrant a rush to vaccinate without a deeper dive into any repercussions that might be found through long-term use of the vaccine.
“Young children have never been at serious risk of death or hospitalization from COVID-19,” Zachary said. “That’s why it’s important that we know more about any potential short-term and long-term impacts these vaccinations could have before our health departments start administering them. Parents who want to have their child vaccinated can still do so by going to a private medical provider.”
About 2 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Tennessee. The actual number of cases may never be known due to at-home testing that has no reporting requirement.
Children under 4 years old account for 3.3% of all reported COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to CDC data.
In his letter to Lee, Zachary lists several concerning questions that should be answered before the health department begins vaccinating children younger than 5 years old for COVID-19. The questions were prompted by a 66-page FDA briefing document related to the emergency use authorization amendment that appears to show an increased risk of illness and hospitalization among children who were vaccinated.
Many questions beyond what have been listed within this letter remain unanswered,” Zachary wrote in the letter. “We ask that you direct the Tennessee Department of Health to halt distribution, promotion or recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest Tennesseans.”
Last year, Republicans in the General Assembly passed legislation preventing local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations or imposing vaccine passports in Tennessee.
“We are fortunate to live in a state that always prioritizes the Constitutional rights and individual liberty of every citizen.” Zachary wrote. “As a result of that tradition, we have come through a pandemic stronger than most every other state in the nation. Still, we are facing troubling directives from the federal government that require unwavering conservative leadership on behalf of our most vulnerable Tennesseans.”