- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 3, 2021

A psychiatry professor is vowing to continue the fight after a federal judge rejected his attempt to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at the University of California on the grounds that persons like him enjoy natural immunity from previous infection and don’t need the shots.

Aaron Kheriaty, who works at the Irvine campus of the university system, said he wants to procure evidence about how the university reached its decision to require the shots.

“We are eager to move to the discovery phase and depose their expert witnesses, gather data on infection rates from the university, etc.,” Mr. Kheriaty told The Washington Times in an email. “If we lose the case at trial we certainly will appeal to the circuit court.”

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, said Thursday the university acted rationally in imposing a mandate designed to protect public health while failing to provide an exemption for those with natural immunity. The ruling denied a motion from Mr. Kheriaty for a preliminary injunction.

It is believed to be the first ruling of its kind as Republican lawmakers and others urge governments and employers to create exemptions for people who recovered from COVID-19 and demonstrate antibody levels.

Biden administration officials have pressed people with prior infection to get the vaccine. They say immunity from vaccines is easier to measure, and it is unclear how durable natural infection is in each person. And they point to a study in Kentucky that found people with prior infection were twice as likely to be reinfected if they shirked the vaccine versus those who came forward for the shots.

The debate is likely to intensify over the coming months. Mr. Biden is pushing for companies with 100 or more workers to require the shots or weekly testing, while California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of mandatory vaccines at K-12 schools over the coming year.

Sen. Roger Marshall, Kansas Republican, led a group of doctors this week in pressing the administration to give deference to those with some level of protection from their infection.

More than 43 million Americans have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic. The senators said failing to recognize those who recovered and have some level of protection could cause a crisis as military members refuse the vaccine, or employers see their workers walk off instead of getting the shots.

“We urge the CDC to harness available data and technology to establish better patient-centered solutions that will truly determine an individual’s level of protection against COVID-19,” the senators wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It may be the case that it is not medically necessary for an individual to receive a vaccination. It may also be the case that a sufficient level of protection may be produced from one dose.”

For now, Mr. Kheriaty said he received a letter from a senior associate dean on Thursday that said he will be placed on “investigatory leave” with pay during the month of October, after which he could face “corrective action.”

“While on Investigatory Leave, you are not to perform any work for the university,” the letter says. “You are not to be present on the premises at the UC Irvine campus in Irvine, California, nor on any clinical space owned or operated by the University of California, Irvine.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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