“Forcing those with natural immunity to be vaccinated introduces unnecessary risks without commensurate benefits,” says Dr. Aaron Kheriaty of UCI

A UCI School of Medicine physician who contracted COVID-19 in 2020 alleges in a lawsuit he should be exempt from the university’s vaccine mandate because he has a “natural immunity” to the virus.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the UCI medical school, filed the suit last week in U.S. District Court against the University of California Board of Regents and Michael V. Drake, the system’s president. He is seeking an injunction to block the mandate, allowing him to return to work unvaccinated, and is asking the court to declare the policy unconstitutional.

“This policy is illogical and cannot withstand strict scrutiny or even a rational basis test because naturally immune individuals, like plaintiff, have at least as good or better immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 than do individuals who are vaccinated,” the suit states.

Kheriaty has been a vocal opponent of the UC system’s vaccine mandate and has penned several opinion articles on the topic for the Wall Street Journal and other publications.

“Forcing those with natural immunity to be vaccinated introduces unnecessary risks without commensurate benefits — either to individuals or the population as a whole — and violates their rights guaranteed under the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment,” he said Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that treating naturally immune individuals differently from the fully vaccinated, when both have immunity, is unconstitutional.

UCI School of Medicine officials referred questions about the suit to Drake’s office, which did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

The UC system adopted a policy in July, requiring with few exceptions, all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus before being allowed on campus, in a facility or an office. Individuals will be required to show proof of vaccination.

“Employees who choose not to be vaccinated, and have no approved exemption, accommodation or deferral, potentially put others’ health at risk and may face disciplinary actions,” the policy says.

The lawsuit also alleges Kheriaty’s exposure to COVID-19 gives him superior immunity to the virus compared to those who are vaccinated.

“Natural immunity will prevent a virus from being able to replicate and shed in the naturally immune individual,” the complaint says. “In contrast, COVID-19 vaccines appear to reduce symptoms in some but still permit the vaccines to become infected with and transmit the virus.”

The lawsuit cites a study in Israel that found vaccinated citizens were 6.72 times more likely to get infected after the shot than after natural infection.

Additionally, the suit details a July 17 email reportedly from a UCI dean to medical school faculty and residents stating there had been a substantial increase in “breakthrough infections” among vaccinated university health care workers.

Written by: Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | Orange County Register PUBLISHED: August 25, 2021 at 3:52 p.m. | UPDATED: August 26, 2021 at 7:21 a.m.

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