State commission warns of discipline for doctors who grant vaccine exemptions without ‘legitimate’ reason

Sep 28, 2021, 1:02 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2021, 9:56 am
COVID misinformation...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Washington Medical Commission (WMC) approved a policy last week, emphasizing its opposition to COVID-related misinformation, and threatening discipline for physicians who help it spread.

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The policy was unanimously approved by the WMC during a commissioner meeting last Wednesday, stating that it intends to “scrutinize any complaints received about practitioners granting exemptions to vaccination or masks that are not based in established science or verifiable fact.” Any practitioner who grants mask or vaccine exemptions without an “appropriate prior exam” or without determining a “legitimate medical reason supporting such an exemption” could face discipline from the WMC, including the loss of their medical license.

While it acknowledges that its position on disciplining practitioners for actions that don’t meet the threshold for standards of care remains unchanged, “politicization of COVID-19 and an influx of complaints regarding COVID misinformation prompted the WMC to reinforce its stance.”

“COVID misinformation has gained significant press coverage, especially examples of practitioners recommending or writing ivermectin prescriptions,” the WMC said Tuesday. “However, numerous complaints and public outcry further motivated the WMC to offer clarity for an oft-confused public regarding misinformation.”

The WMC’s policy also stresses its support for treatments formally approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health, noting that ivermectin does not have FDA approval for the treatment of COVID-19, nor does hydroxychloroquine.

Bogus COVID info may have sent thousands to hospitals

Voicing his support for the WMC’s position, state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah stressed how “it is viral misinformation, rooted in unfounded scientific claims, that often stands in our way.”

“It is our ethical duty to listen to our patients concerns, course-correct when people fall prey to falsehoods, and help them make informed medical decisions that are guided by research and medical science,” Dr. Shah said in a news release.

This comes in the wake of the Jefferson County Board of Health voting in mid-September to declare a public health crisis over pandemic-related misinformation. A resolution passed by the board pointed to how county Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry has been a victim of “intimidation and threats of violence” from those opposed to a recently implemented vaccination requirement for indoor restaurants and bars, all while misinformation surrounding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine has continued to spread.

“There are some people in our community who are vaccine hesitant for a variety of reasons, most of which are fed by misinformation campaigns,” the resolution reads.

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State commission warns of discipline for doctors who grant vaccine exemptions without ‘legitimate’ reason