Connect with us

Brownstone Institute

Kheriaty vs. University of California


11 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


Shortly after I published the Wall Street Journal piece arguing that university vaccine mandates were unethical, the University of California, my employer, promulgated its vaccine mandate. I decided then it was time to put a stake in the ground: I filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the university’s vaccine mandate on behalf of COVID-recovered individuals. It was already clear from many robust studies that natural immunity following infection was superior to vaccine-mediated immunity in terms of efficacy and duration of immunity.

At the time I was an unlikely candidate to challenge the prevailing vaccination policies. I was deeply embedded in the academic medical establishment, where I had spent my entire career. In my capacity as a psychiatric consultant on the medical wards and in the emergency department, I had suited up in PPE (personal protective equipment) to see hundreds of hospitalized COVID patients, witnessing the worst that this illness can do. Nobody needed to explain to me how bad this virus could be for some individuals, especially the elderly with co-occurring medical conditions who were at significant risk of bad outcomes when infected.

I contracted the virus in July 2020, and despite my efforts to self-isolate, passed it to my wife and five children. Living and breathing COVID for a year, I eagerly awaited a safe and effective vaccine for those that were still not immune to this virus. I happily served on the Orange County COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, and I advocated in the Los Angeles Times that the elderly and sick be prioritized for vaccination, and that the poor, disabled, and underserved be given ready access to vaccines.

I had worked every day for over a year to develop and advance the university’s and state’s pandemic mitigation measures. But as the prevailing COVID policies unfolded, I became increasingly concerned, and eventually disillusioned. Our one-size-fits-all coercive mandates failed to take account of individualized risks and benefits, particularly age-stratified risks, which are central to the practice of good medicine. We ignored foundational principles of public health, like transparency and the health of the entire population. With little resistance we abandoned foundational ethical principles.

Among the most glaring failures of our response to COVID was the refusal to acknowledge the natural immunity of COVID-recovered patients in our mitigation strategies, herd-immunity estimates, and vaccine-rollout plans. The CDC estimated that by May 2021, more than 120 million Americans (36 percent) had been infected with COVID. Following the Delta-variant wave later that year, many epidemiologists estimated the number was close to half of all Americans. By the end of the Omicron wave in early 2022, that number was north of 70 percent. The good news — almost never mentioned — was that those with previous infection had more durable and longer-lasting immunity than the vaccinated. Yet the focus remained exclusively on vaccines.

As I argued in a coauthored article, medical exemptions for most vaccine mandates were too narrowly tailored, constraining physicians’ discretionary judgment and seriously compromising individualized patient care. Most mandates only allowed medical exemptions for conditions included on the CDC’s list of contraindications to the vaccines — a list that was never meant to be comprehensive. CDC recommendations should never have been taken as sound medical advice applicable to every patient.

Further exacerbating this problem, on August 17, 2021, all licensed physicians in California received a notification from the state medical board with the heading “Inappropriate Exemptions May Subject Physicians to Discipline.” Physicians were informed that any doctor granting an inappropriate mask exemption or other COVID-related exemptions “may be subjecting their license to disciplinary action.” In what was perhaps a deliberate omission, the “standard of care” criteria for vaccine exemptions was never defined by the medical board. In my eighteen years as a licensed physician, I had never previously received any such notice, nor had my colleagues.

The effect was chilling: since physicians naturally interpreted “other exemptions” to include vaccines, it became de facto impossible to find a doctor in California willing to write a medical exemption, even if the patient had a legitimate contraindication to the COVID vaccines. One of my patients was told by his rheumatologist he should not get the COVID vaccine, since he was at low risk from COVID and in this physician’s judgment his autoimmune condition elevated his risks of vaccine adverse effects.

This patient, who was subjected to a vaccine mandate at work, immediately asked this same physician for a medical exemption. The doctor replied, “I’m sorry, I cannot write you an exemption because I’m afraid I might lose my license.” I heard many stories of similar egregious violations of medical ethics under these repressive mandates and the enforcement regime that bolstered them.

As the vaccines rolled out in 2021, I spoke to many students, faculty, residents, staff, and patients who were aware of these basic immunological facts and were asking legitimate questions about vaccine mandates. Many correctly saw no medical or public health justification for subjecting themselves to the risks of the novel vaccines when they already had superior natural immunity. Others had moral concerns but did not qualify for a religious exemption, because religion was not central to their conscience-based objections.

They felt intimidated, disempowered, and vulnerable in the face of immense pressure to go along. Many physicians and nurses were afraid to speak up in the climate of coercion. Public health officials ignored inconvenient scientific findings, suppressed reasonable questions, and bullied into silence any skeptical physicians or scientists. Institutions promulgating mandates stigmatized and punished those who refused to comply. I had never seen anything like this in medicine.

Why did I file a lawsuit in federal court against my own employer? I had nothing to gain personally by this and a lot to lose professionally. I decided I could not stand by and watch the ethical disaster unfold around me without attempting to do something. In my position as Director of Medical Ethics at UCI, I had a duty to represent those whose voices were silenced and to insist upon the right of informed consent and informed refusal.

In the end, my decision to challenge these mandates came down to this question: How could I continue to call myself a medical ethicist if I failed to do what I was convinced was morally right under pressure? Projecting ahead to the required medical ethics course I taught to first and second-year medical students at the beginning of each year, I could not imagine lecturing on informed consent, moral courage, and our duty to protect patients from harm if I had failed to oppose these unjust and unscientific mandates. I simply would not have woken up each day with a clear conscience.

The university did not take kindly to my legal challenge, as you might imagine. Administrators allowed no grass to grow under their feet before responding to this dissident within the ranks. I had petitioned the court for a preliminary injunction to put the vaccine mandate on hold while the case was litigated in court. The judge declined this request, and the following day the university placed me on “investigatory leave” for alleged noncompliance with the vaccine mandate. Instead of waiting for the federal court to decide my case, the university immediately banned me from working on campus or working from home.

I was given no opportunity to contact my patients, students, residents, or colleagues and let them know I would suddenly disappear. An email from one of the deans, sent after I had left the office for the day, informed me that I could not return to campus the following day.

As I drove away from campus for the last time that day, I glanced at the sign on the corner near the hospital. The sign, which had been up for months, read in large block letters, HEROES WORK HERE.

Republished from the author’s Substack


  • Aaron Kheriaty

    Aaron Kheriaty, Senior Brownstone Scholar and 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is a psychiatrist working with the Unity Project. He is a former Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, where he was the director of Medical Ethics.

Todayville is a digital media and technology company. We profile unique stories and events in our community. Register and promote your community event for free.

Follow Author

Brownstone Institute

Discovery Is the Covid Regime’s Greatest Fear

Published on


The most recent batch of the “Twitter files” offers brief insight into the Covid regime’s fear that the details behind their censorship and collusion will become public.

On Thursday, Alex Berenson posted a series of email correspondences between Twitter attorneys concerning his 2022 lawsuit against the company.

Last year, Berenson sued Twitter after the company issued him a “permanent ban” for his August 2021 tweet opposing vaccine mandates:

“It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS. And we want to mandate it? Insanity.”

After a judge denied Twitter’s motion to dismiss, the two sides reached a settlement agreement that reinstated Berenson’s account and provided concrete evidence that government actors – including White House Covid Advisor Andy Slavitt – worked to censor criticism of Biden’s Covid policies.

In the emails, Twitter’s litigation team discusses the probability that they will lose the case.

“We believe our chances of success at the trial level are less than 50%,” writes Micah Rubbo, Twitter’s associate director for litigation. She then asks, “Are we willing to litigate and risk the potential public disclosure of *many* documents in order to prevent disclosure of some of them now?’”

Rubbo’s comments reveal Twitter’s primary motivation to settle the case. The company was not worried about monetary damages or regulatory fines; its concerns were entirely reputational. She focused on the risk of potential public disclosures, not the risk of losing the trial. Failure to reach a settlement jeopardized exposing the company’s communications with government officials, law enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and other pro-censorship actors in the Covid regime.

Twitter did not settle with Berenson out of remorse for its actions or care for journalistic freedoms. It was a calculated decision designed to mitigate public relations backlash.

Berenson’s reporting did not uncover the documents that the lawyers worried would become public, but the reaction indicates that any concessions would be better than discovery.

Now, Berenson has filed suit against President Biden, White House advisors, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and Pfizer Board Member Scott Gottlieb for orchestrating a public-private censorship campaign against him.

In Berenson v. Biden: The Potential and Significance, we wrote:

The conspirators censored Berenson because he was inconvenient, not incorrect. Their ploy may backfire, however. Berenson v. Biden could unearth more information on the Covid era than his reporting would have ever uncovered.

Discovery and depositions from Pfizer and the White House would be the most valuable insight of the last three years – insight into the power structures that orchestrated lockdowns, censorship, forced vaccinations, school closures, economic upheaval, government overreach, and the merger of corporations with the state.

Berenson’s latest reporting reinforces the potential backfire against the censors. They have jeopardized their regime by banning a tweet that would have been relatively inconsequential. Now, Berenson’s suit threatens to uncover the inner workings of the censorship-industrial complex.

The revelations from Missouri v Biden (covered in a series here) are astonishing enough. They prove the existence of a vast, relentless, deliberate, communicative, and effective hegemon of control that impacts the news and information experience of every person connected to the Internet. It is still in full operation. The only real difference is that we know about it.

All indications are that the judicial system will favor a final and clean decision for free speech, even if that only comes at the hands of the Supreme Court at a much later date. That does not fix the continuing problem now and does not guarantee that government and business will not continue this in the future. But at least for now, there is some reason for hope that the Bill of Rights is not entirely dead.


  • Brownstone Institute

    The Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

Continue Reading

Brownstone Institute

The Plan: Lock You Down for 130 Days

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


What if the coronavirus pandemic was not a once-in-a-century event but the beginning of a new era of regular deadly respiratory viral pandemics? The Biden administration is already planning for this future. Last year, it unveiled a national strategy to develop pharmaceutical firms’ capacity to create vaccines within 130 days of a pandemic emergency declaration.

The Biden plan enshrines former president Donald Trump‘s Operation Warp Speed as the model response for the next century of pandemics. Left unsaid is that, for the new pandemic plan to work as envisioned, it will require us to conduct dangerous gain-of-function research. It will also require cutting corners in the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of novel vaccines. And while the studies are underway, politicians will face tremendous pressure to impose draconian lockdowns to keep the population “safe.”

In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, it took about a year for governments to deploy the jab at scale after scientists sequenced the virus. Scientists identified a vaccine target—fragments of the spike protein that the virus uses to access cells—by early January 2020, even before the WHO declared a worldwide pandemic.

This rapid response was only possible because some scientists already knew much about the novel virus. Despite heavy regulations limiting the work, the US National Institutes of Health had funded collaborations between the EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They collected bat viruses from the wild, enhanced their function to study their potential, and designed vaccines before the viruses infected humans.

While there is controversy over whether this gain-of-function work is responsible for the COVID pandemic, there is no question this research is potentially dangerous. Even cautious scientists sometimes accidentally leak hazardous, highly infectious viruses into the surrounding community. In December 2021, for instance, the virus that causes COVID-19 accidentally leaked out of a laboratory in Taiwan, where scientists were researching the virus.

A promising vaccine target would be needed immediately after a disease outbreak for the Biden pandemic plan to work. For that to be possible, there will need to be permanent support for research enhancing the capacity of viruses to infect and kill humans. The possibility of a deadly laboratory leak will hang over humanity into perpetuity.

Furthermore, before any mass vaccination campaign, pharmaceutical firms must test the vaccines for safety. High-quality randomized, controlled studies are needed to make sure the vaccine works.

In 1954, Jonas Salk’s group tested the vaccine in a million children before the polio mass vaccination campaign that effectively defanged the threat of polio to American children. Physicians need the results of these studies to provide accurate information to patients.

Operation Warp Speed cut red tape so that vaccine manufacturers could conduct these studies rapidly. The randomized trials cut some corners. For instance, the Pfizer and Moderna trials did not enroll enough people to determine whether the COVID vaccines reduce all-cause mortality.

Nor did they determine whether the vaccines stop disease transmission; a few months after the government deployed the vaccines, researchers found protection against infection was partial and short-lived. Each of these cut corners has since created policy controversies and uncertainty that better trials would have avoided. Because of the pressure to produce a vaccine within 130 days, President Biden’s pandemic plan will likely force randomized trials on future vaccines to cut the same corners.

This policy effectively guarantees that lockdowns will return to the US in the event of a new pandemic. Though the lockdowns did not work to protect populations from getting or spreading COVID—after 2.5 years, nearly everyone in the US has had COVID—public health bureaucracies like the CDC have not repudiated the strategy.

Imagine the early days of the next pandemic, with public health and the media fomenting fear of a new pathogen. The impetus to close schools, businesses, churches, beaches, and parks will be irresistible, though the pitch will be “130 days until the vax” rather than “two weeks to flatten the curve.”

When the vaccine finally arrives, the push to mass vaccinate for herd immunity will be enormous, even without evidence from the rushed trials that the vaccine provides long-lasting protection against disease transmission. This happened in 2021 with the COVID vaccine and would happen again amidst the pandemic panic. The government would push the vaccine even on populations at low risk from the novel pathogen. Mandates and discrimination against the unvaccinated would return, along with a fierce movement to resist them. The public’s remaining trust in public health would shatter.

Rather than pursue this foolish policy, the Biden administration should adopt the traditional strategy for managing new respiratory-virus pandemics. This strategy involves quickly identifying high-risk groups and adopting creative strategies to protect them while not throwing the rest of society into panic.

The development of vaccines and treatments should be encouraged, but without imposing an artificial timeline that guarantees corners will be cut in evaluation. And most of all, lockdowns—a disaster for children, the poor, and the working class—should be excised from the public health toolkit forever.

A version of this piece appeared in Newsweek


  • Jayanta Bhattacharya

    Jay Bhattacharya is a physician, epidemiologist and health economist. He is Professor at Stanford Medical School, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, a Faculty Member at the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute, and a Fellow at the Academy of Science and Freedom. His research focuses on the economics of health care around the world with a particular emphasis on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Co-Author of the Great Barrington Declaration.

Continue Reading