A week after the California medical board accused Orange County pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears of gross negligence for improperly excusing a 2-year-old child from vaccinations, an outspoken advocate for vaccination has filed an additional complaint against him.
Carl Krawitt, of Marin County, is alleging that while testifying about vaccinations before the California Senate Education Committee last year, Dr. Sears alluded to Krawitt's son, who is not his patient, and made statements about the child's ability to tolerate a vaccine.
Krawitt claims Sears did so "to scare parents of perfectly healthy children from getting vaccines" and called Sears unethical for commenting about a patient he's never treated.
Sears has been a longtime advocate of attachment parenting and in 2007 published the popular manual, "The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child," which provides a rationale for parents not to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended immunization schedule.
Sears' lawyer, Rick Jaffe, said Krawitt's complaint is not "viable," because Sears never cared for Rhett, and therefore wasn't in a position to publicly release any protected medical information about the child.
"Like every citizen, Dr. Sears has a first amendment right to voice his opinion on matters of public interest," Jaffe said. "That would include responding or addressing opinions and statements of public figures."
Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia when he was two years old and underwent more than three years of chemotherapy, leaving his immune system too fragile for vaccines. His only defense against infectious diseases was ensuring that others around him were immunized; he relied, in part, on so-called herd immunity.
During the April 2015 Senate committee hearing, Sears said children who are vaccinated against the chicken pox "can shed that virus for up to six weeks" and pose a danger to immune-compromised kids like Rhett.
"Children such as Rhett, bless his heart… shouldn't be around children who have just received the chicken pox vaccine for a six-week period according to the FDA guidelines," he said.
Sears's testimony infuriated Krawitt, who says, "it's unprofessional for any doctor to make an assumption about a patient that he has neither examined nor reviewed medical records and, moreover, to use it in testimony to an official government hearing is just wrong."
Dr. James Cherry, distinguished research professor specializing in pediatrics and infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, said a doctor should not comment on an immune-compromised child's condition or risk of contracting diseases without understanding the child's medical history. That includes his diagnosis, where he is in the course of his treatment, and what treatment he’s undergoing, Cherry said.
The risk of anyone getting infected with chicken pox vaccine virus is, "pretty darn rare," he added.
In his testimony, Sears also criticized schools for not protecting immune-compromised children from students who have been recently vaccinated against chicken pox. He said doctors should warn those getting the vaccine to avoid such children.
Krawitt addressed these comments in his complaint to the board, and noted that his son's school district, "proactively worked diligently with us to understand all of the risks imposed on Rhett when he was immune-compromised, specifically those risks imposed by unvaccinated and recently vaccinated children."
Krawitt said he decided to file the complaint after reading last week that the medical board accused Sears of excusing a patient from vaccines without obtaining the necessary information to make his decision. He thought the fact that there were multiple complaints would bolster the case against Sears.
The Medical Board doesn't comment about open complaints, said spokeswoman Cassandra Hockenson. She said the original accusation against Sears stands on its own right now, but if other people have questions or issues, she encourages them to come forward.