MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said Friday the director of the Shelby County Health Department has submitted her resignation as the county is investigated over reports of vaccine waste, potential vaccine theft and improper vaccinations of children.
Dr. Alisa Haushalter has been front and center as the face of the health department since the start of the pandemic. In recent days, however, she’s come under fire as a state investigation uncovered more than 2,400 COVID-19 vaccine doses were wasted over several weeks.
When asked about resigning earlier this week, Haushalter said she was at the retirement age but believed it was her responsibility to see Shelby County through developing a new protocol for vaccine distribution and record-keeping.
Harris announced Haushalter’s resignation Friday in a special meeting with the Shelby County Commission.
Harris said he has to take accountability for the failures discovered by the Tennessee Department of Health. He says his work is to regain the public’s trust both in him and the vaccine process.
There are questions about what Harris knew and when it was reported. He said he knew about suspicious activity possibly involving theft of vaccines at the Pipkin Building and the vaccination of juveniles the day both events happened which was Feb. 3.
Both he and Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said they were not reported to the state until Thursday. Harris said they were reported to law enforcement at the time.
In a statement from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, officials said there was a deputy at the Pipkin Building around Feb. 3 and a health department representative talked with him about the possible theft of vaccines.
The statement goes on to say:
“There were no eyewitnesses and there was insufficient information that a theft occurred or any unlawful conduct that would have warranted a report. Because of the uncertainty and lack of information, the Health Department representative did not request a report.”
Harris said he would announce an interim health department director in the next week. In the meantime, Haushalter would wind down her affairs with her anticipated last day March 15.
Commissioner Chase Carlisle responded calling for Haushalter’s immediate termination.
Haushalter was originally expected to be on the call to answer questions about the vaccine scandal.