University of California Fires Director of Ethics Program for Defying COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

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Professor sued the university in August, arguing natural immunity should be an allowed exception

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, the longtime professor of psychiatry at the University of California–Irvine School of Medicine who sued the university over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate because it made no exceptions for natural immunity, has been fired by the institution for refusing the vaccine.

In a blog post titled “Farewell, University of California,” Dr. Kheriaty said he received notice of what he called his “arbitrary and capricious” firing on Dec. 16. It was effective the same day. The termination ends his UCI medical teaching career and his longtime role as director of the Medical Ethics Program at UCI Health.

Kheriaty said he worked unpaid nights helping the UCI president’s office draft triage guidelines for scarce resources and vaccines during the pandemic. When N-95 masks were so scarce that hospitals kept them under lock and key, Kheriaty said he found a supply at a local construction company and provided them to doctors and nurses.

“Everyone at the university seemed to be a fan of my work, until suddenly they were not,” Kheriaty wrote. “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.”

Kheriaty said the university tried to prevent him from doing any professional work while he was on unpaid suspension, in an effort to pressure him to resign from a job he had held for 15 years. He said he wasn’t allowed on campus except to move out of his office. Kheriaty was also restricted from making money off-campus. “It was dizzying and, at times, surreal,” he wrote.

By Joseph M. Hanneman

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