UC Irvine Fires Doctor Who Already Had COVID-19 for Refusing Vaccine

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The University of California Irvine has fired Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a physician and medical ethics professor, for refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine because he claimed natural immunity after he was infected in July 2020 and had recovered.

Dr. Kheriaty, described by the Los Angeles Times as “a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the medical school and director of the medical ethics program at UCI Health,” sued UC Irvine over its vaccine mandate for employees last year.

In his lawsuit, Dr. Kheriaty noted:

He is one of the estimated 3.9 million Californians1 who are confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus. He was infected with the virus in July 2020 and experienced many of the common symptoms associated with COVID-19, including a cough and loss of taste and smell. In fighting off the virus, his body created a robust natural immunity to every antigen on the COVID-19 virus, not just the spike protein of the virus as happens with the COVID-19 vaccines. Nevertheless, UCI has told Plaintiff that he cannot return to his teaching position unless he receives a COVID-19 vaccine.

(The Times article failed to note that Dr. Kheriary had been previously infected, but noted rather that he had been “exposed.” It also noted, “Research shows that coronavirus immunity wanes over time,” without noting that it does so for the vaccine as well.)

In a blog post revealing that he had been fired, Dr. Kheriaty wrote:

I worked in-person at the hospital every day during the pandemic, seeing patients in our clinic, psychiatric wards, emergency room, and hospital wards—including Covid patients in the ER, ICU, and medicine wards. As our chief ethics consultant, I had countless conversations with families of patients dying of Covid, and tried my best to console and guide them in their grief. When our pregnant residents were worried about consulting on Covid patients, the administration reassured these residents that they had no elevated risks from Covid—a claim without any evidential basis at the time, and which we now know to be false. I saw the Covid consults for these worried residents, even when I was not covering the consult service.

I also remember in the early weeks of the pandemic when N-95 masks were in short supply and the hospital kept them under lock and key. Hospital administrators yelled at nurses for wearing surgical or cloth masks (this was before masks became all the rage after the CDC suggested, with little evidence, that they might help). At that early stage the truth was we didn’t know whether masks worked or not, and nurses were doing the best they could under pressure in a situation of uncertainty. The administrators yelled and ridiculed them, not wanting to admit the real issue was that we simply did not have enough masks. So I called local construction companies and sourced 600 N-95s from them. I supplied some to the residents in our department and my attending colleagues in the ER, then donated the rest to the hospital. Meanwhile the University administrators—the same ones who fired me yesterday—were working safely from home and did not have to fret about PPE shortages.

I was the only faculty member at UCI who directed courses across all four years of our medical student curriculum, so I knew the students as well as anyone at the University. The Dean asked me to address the students when they were first sent home in the early days of the pandemic. While I disagreed with the decision to send them home—after all, what were they here for if not to learn to practice medicine, especially during a pandemic?—I nevertheless encouraged them to continue to engage with pandemic response efforts outside the hospital. I published those remarks to encourage students at other schools.

Our dean sent this to the deans at the other UC schools, one of whom suggested that I give the graduation speech at all the campuses that year. Three years ago, the UCI school of medicine deans asked me to give the White Coat Ceremony keynote address to the incoming medical students because, as they told me, “you are the best lecturer in the medical school.” For many years, the psychiatry clerkship I directed was the highest rated clinical course at the medical school.

Everyone at the University seemed to be a fan of my work until suddenly they were not. Once I challenged one of their policies I immediately became a “threat to the health and safety of the community.” No amount of empirical evidence about natural immunity or vaccine safety and efficacy mattered at all. The University’s leadership was not interested in scientific debate or ethical deliberation. When I was placed on unpaid suspension I was not permitted to use my paid time off—that is to say, I was ordered to stay off campus because I was not vaccinated, but I also could not take vacation at home because… I was not vaccinated. In violation of every basic principle of just and fair employment, the University tried to prevent me from doing any outside professional activities while I was on unpaid suspension. In an effort to pressure me to resign, they wanted to restrict my ability to earn an income not only at the University but outside the University as well. It was dizzying and at times surreal.

Another professor at George Mason University in a similar predicament wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last year explaining why he was suing his university over its own vaccine mandate: “I have natural immunity, so there’s no justification for a coercive violation of my bodily autonomy.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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