Dr. Aaron Kheriaty reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic like many other medical experts. He worked long hours as the United States tried to grapple with the new disease. He had too many conversations with family members whose loved ones were dying from it.
But as time wore on, he started noticing a pattern in public health decisions that seemed to diverge from traditional medical ethics, including an insistence that people at little risk from COVID-19 get a vaccine.
Kheriaty is now on suspension from the University of California, Irvine, (UCI) and challenging the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in court.
“I had to stand up and try to do something about it,” the professor of psychiatry and director of the UCI Health’s Medical Ethics Program said on The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders.”
"I knew that I would wake up in the morning & not have a clear conscience."
— Jan Jekielek (@JanJekielek) October 30, 2021
UCI spokespeople declined to comment for this story.
Kheriaty contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, in mid-2020. His infection was confirmed by two different tests from two independent labs. His five children and wife also contracted the disease. They all recovered, with none requiring hospital care.
“It was, for me, actually a very liberating experience afterward, because I didn’t have to worry about the illness anymore. I knew the science on natural immunity,” Kheriaty said.
Natural immunity refers to when people contract COVID-19 and recover. Dozens of studies have documented that these individuals enjoy strong immunity against CCP virus re-infection. Some of the studies suggest the immunity is superior to that provided by COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the Johnson & Johnson one.
“I knew that at that point, I was among the safest people to be around, I didn’t have to worry about transmitting the infection to my patients,” Kheriaty said.
He continued taking precautions, wearing personal protective equipment like masks as required at the hospital. But he was confident he didn’t pose a risk to others, which served as a relief.
That relief turned into disbelief when, around a year later, the University of California system, which includes UCI, imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Opt-Out is Temporary
The mandate (pdf) included a natural immunity opt-out, but only temporarily. People who recovered from COVID-19 were told they would only be exempt from the mandate for up to 90 days after their diagnosis.
University officials cited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which alleges that the antibody tests it has authorized “are not validated to evaluate specific immunity or protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
SARS-CoV-2 is another name for the CCP virus.
“For this reason, individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had an antibody test are not permanently exempt from vaccination,” officials said.
The mandate violated rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, including equal protection and substantive due process, Kheriaty’s lawsuit asserts.
“Plaintiff is naturally immune to SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, plaintiff is at least as equally situated as those who are fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine, yet defendants deny plaintiff equal treatment and seek to burden Plaintiff with an unnecessary violation of bodily integrity to which plaintiff does not consent in order to be allowed to continue to work at UCI,” it states.
The situation creates two classes, vaccinated and unvaccinated, when a more reasonable division would be those who are immune and those who are not, Kheriaty believes.
“What kind of discriminatory policies do we have in place that are excluding someone like me from the workplace when I’m 99.8 percent protected against reinfection whereas someone who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by the company’s own data that they submitted to the FDA, is 67 percent protective against COVID infection?” he said.
Kheriaty initially planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Now he’s working to change the narrative around mandates.
Some say proposed natural immunity opt-outs for the mandates would be make it much more difficult to ascertain who meets the threshold, versus a vaccine mandate with no lasting provision for post-infection.
Most mandates across the country don’t have alternatives for people who had COVID-19 and recovered.
Kheriaty proposes putting the burden of proof on people who want to opt out.
“Just have them go get the testing on their own time. You don’t have to administer the T-cell test or the antibody test. You don’t have to go dig up their old medical record establishing that they’ve already had COVID,” he said.
“Just ask them to bring that in and sign off on that as a kind of immunity passport.”
The population of those who recovered and still got a vaccine is known as having “hybrid immunity.”
A large part of the medical health establishment, including all federal public health agencies, downplay natural immunity. They say it exists but that hybrid immunity is better.
“I’m not denying at all that people who get infected and recover have a considerable degree of immunity,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last month. “We also know—and I think we should not let this pass without saying it—that when you get infected and recover, a) you get a good degree of immunity, but b) when you get vaccinated, you dramatically increase that protection, which is something that’s really quite good.”
A spokesman for Fauci’s agency told The Epoch Times in an email that he sourced from several studies, including one from researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. They found that a COVID-19 vaccine based on messenger RNA given following COVID-19 infection boosted neutralizing antibodies.
Many studies, however, show the immunity post-infection is already sky-high for many, leading to questions about why the recovered would then go get a vaccine that, like every jab, has side effects.
“There are now about five independent studies that strongly suggest that individuals that already have natural immunity, when you vaccinate them, the risk of vaccine adverse events or vaccine side effects is higher for that group,” the professor said. “They have higher risk of side effects from the vaccine. It’s not going to help the people around them because natural immunity already is sterilizing, [yet] we don’t yet have any COVID vaccines that offer sterilizing immunity.”